In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transforation of Rural China

Michael Meyer. Bloomsbury, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-1-62040-286-3
The Chinese countryside struggles to preserve its soul while edging toward modern capitalism in this vivid snapshot of China’s far northeastern region of Manchuria. Journalist Meyer (The Last Days of Old Beijing) spent three years living in his in-laws’ village of Wasteland—which, despite the name, turns out to be a lively place. With delightful character sketches and casual but sharp-eyed reporting, his portrait of Wasteland captures the close-knit warmth of rural life—everyone knows everything about Meyer’s business, especially the village “aunties” who are forever kibitzing his parenting plans—as well as the hilarious ways that Chinese and American cultures mistranslate each other. Along the way he tours Manchuria’s historical sites and stilted museum exhibitions, while recounting its tumultuous past as a battleground fought over by Japan, Russia, and Chinese Nationalists and Communists. In Wasteland, he observes a quieter upheaval as the town is gradually taken over by an agribusiness that wants to move farmers off the land and into apartment complexes, a development that promises advantages—steadier incomes, indoor plumbing instead of frigid outhouses—while threatening to unravel the social fabric. Meyer’s entertaining mix of memoir, travelogue, and sociology yields a rich, insightful view of China in transition. Photos. Agent: Georges Borchardt, Georges Borchardt Literary Agency. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/01/2014
Release date: 02/17/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-1-62040-288-7
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