Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Harvard historian Ezra Vogel discusses his “Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China” in a video posted on YouTube.

The lifetimes of Deng Xiaoping and Toscanini overlapped for more than a half-century, but it’s a good bet they never met until now.

That is, Toscanini’s ice cream, in Central Square, is hosting Harvard historian Ezra Vogel, whose weighty “Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China” (The Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 2011) is drawing equally weighty reviews from media including The New York Times and the U.K. Independent, at 6 p.m. Monday. Toscanini’s is at 899 Main St.

Deng, the somewhat faceless successor to Mao Zedong, is known for transforming China into an economic powerhouse during his roughly two decades of leadership and presiding over the bloodshed ending the Tiananmen Square movement for Democracy in 1989. Vogel’s tome is drawing attention not just for its topic, but for the fact that despite its topic “most of Deng’s life and career takes up only a quarter of Vogel’s 714 pages of narrative,” as the Times notes, and a sympathetic tone summed up in the author’s defining question: “Did any other leader in the 20th century do more to improve the lives of so many?”

While as a topic for an ice cream shop book signing “Deng” makes somewhat less sense than having in Jeff Potter for his “Cooking for Geeks,” it reflects the eclectic interests and circle of friends of founder Gus Rancatore — and makes some sense in the hometown of Harvard (where Vogel is Henry Ford II research professor of the social sciences, emeritus) and where the Chinese-speaking population has grown from 3.7 percent of the population a decade ago to 4.1 percent in last year’s U.S. Census.

And, after all, ice cream is yet another thing quite China can claim to have invented.

“Please come meet Ezra and have ice cream, coffee or tea,” Rancatore said Sunday.

Copies of the book will be available.