cover image A Floating City of Peasants: The Great Migration in Contemporary China

A Floating City of Peasants: The Great Migration in Contemporary China

Floris-Jan Van Luyn, , trans. from the Dutch by Jeannette K. Ringold. . New Press, $35 (219pp) ISBN 978-1-59558-138-9

Internal migration in China has reached epic proportions as the masses are exchanging the countryside for the city. Through 12 individual profiles, Dutch journalist van Luyn fleshes out the lives of these migrants, notably from their point of view. The peasant class in China lacks many basic rights, but van Luyn is careful not to make victims of his subjects. Instead, he provides well-rounded portraits of prostitutes, garbage collectors and factory workers, offering insight into their notions of sacrifice and progress. Van Luyn shows both sides of this migration, the peasants who stay and continue to live in ways that have been uninterrupted for decades and the ones who go to factory cities. For the most part, these stories reveal the people who put together coats, computers and other goods that find their way across the globe to propel China's explosive growth in the world economy. Photos of children playing in medical waste and men whose baths are contingent upon collecting sufficient rainwater enhance these portraits of daily privations. Though the personal narratives do much to explicate the push-and-pull factors affecting migration today, hard evidence in the form of statistics and socioeconomic analyses would have helped ground these stories in a larger social trend. B&w photos. (Feb.)

Correction: In A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants (Reviews, Dec. 10.), author Jaed Coffin travels to his mother's hometown in Thailand, not Taiwan.