Retired Professor’s Historical Fiction Book Wins National Award

A Call to China, a book written by UNC Charlotte retired religious studies professor Jeffrey Meyer, is a silver winner in the historical fiction category of the Independent Book Publishers Association Benjamin Franklin Awards™.

The IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for excellence in book publishing, in its 30th year, is regarded as one of the highest national honors for small and independent publishers. Meyer’s book was published by the independent publisher IngramElliott, based in Huntersville.

A professor at UNC Charlotte for 35 years, Meyer taught Asian religions in the Religious Studies Department, with a focus on Buddhism and Daoism. He retired in 2008, and this is his first novel.

A Call to China is a coming of age story, about two sisters continents apart, who find and discover each other and themselves through spirituality and familial love.

A child of American missionaries disappears at a Beijing festival in 1940. Although devastated, the parents continue their dedicated missionary work in China. After the birth of a second child, Japanese occupiers force the family into a detention camp. Years later, the story continues as two sisters, raised in two different cultures, begin a search for identity and family against the background of revolutionary change in 20th century China and America.

book cover Call to China“Meyer convincingly creates multiple worlds – of pre-war China, missionaries, Japanese detention camps, postwar America, and reform-era China – that are rich and imaginative,” wrote Ian Johnson, Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter and author of The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao, in a review. “Built around two strong women, the novel immerses us in Chinese and Christian religious communities, showcasing the author’s deep knowledge of China, religion and faith. Holding it all together is a riveting plot – a kidnapping whose effects span decades and continents.”

Meyer has long felt a connection to China, beginning as a young boy when he was reading Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth and Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living. His interest continued as a scholar, as he earned his doctoral degree at The University of Chicago and pursued a career devoted to researching and teaching about the Chinese culture. He and his wife also adopted a daughter from China.

This year’s indie book award program recognized excellence in books published during calendar year 2017. From close to 1,500 entries, one gold winner and one silver winner were named in each of 54 categories. Over 150 librarians, booksellers, and design and editorial experts – most of whom have decades of book industry experience – judge the books submitted to the program.

Founded in 1983 to support independent publishers nationwide and boasting over 3,000 members, the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) leads and serves the independent publishing community through advocacy, education, and tools for success.