Second-hand China

Even when the library’s computer tells me I’m at the top of the list of people requesting a book, it can take as much as two months for the volume to arrive at my branch, for me to pick up. This adds an additional layer of mystery to what books I will have to read simultaneously.

I just finished Ha Jin’s new book, A Free Life, about a Chinese man and his family who emigrated to the US before the Tiananmen Square massacre. Circumstance then led them to a northern Atlanta suburb, where they owned and operated a restaurant (the author taught here at Emory for a time), and the years passed. Ha Jin crafted a good tale, but the epilogue and appended poems (authored by the hero at the end of the tale) make the volume truly special.

The other book I’m reading is non-fiction and a couple of years old, but still pretty recent. It is River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, by Peter Hessler, about Hessler and a pal who teach English in Fuling, a city on the Yangtze near the Three Gorges Dam. I haven’t gotten far in this volume, so I don’t know where Hessler gets with it….

Together, the two provide interesting insights into modern China, and the concerns of individual citizens. I still can’t imagine living in modern Chinese mega-cities, with those high population densities and pollution levels….


  1. kayak woman says:

    And then there’s “Foreign Babes in Beijing,” by the daughter of Liz and Mouse’s [fantastic] high school English teacher, which I read last summer. These days, my reading material is limited to web technology stuff and keeping up with the New Yorker. And yes, I’m pretty much keeping caught up! 🙂 But don’t quiz me 😉

  2. Sammy says:

    Unfortunately our county library doesn’t have that book; I may have to put it on my Xmas list!

  3. kayak woman says:

    haha! I was kind of joking although I did enjoy reading the book, a light-hearted view of living and working in China. And moon-lighting as an actress in a Chinese soap opera. According to Wikipedia, somebody is going to make a movie.

  4. Sammy says:

    Seems worthwhile, both to read it and to support the author!