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Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



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Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China

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Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China Cover

ISBN13: 9780805076158
ISBN10: 0805076158
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A first-hand account of the remarkable transformation of China over the past forty years as seen through the life of an award-winning journalist and his four Chinese classmates.

As a twenty-year-old exchange student from Stanford University, John Pomfret spent a year at Nanjing University in China. His fellow classmates were among those who survived the twin tragedies of Mao's rule — the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution — and whose success in government and private industry today are shaping China's future. Pomfret went on to a career in journalism, spending the bulk of his time in China. After attending the twentieth reunion of his class, he decided to reacquaint himself with some of his classmates. Chinese Lessons is their story and his own.

Beginning with Pomfret's first days in China, Chinese Lessons takes us back to the often torturous paths that brought together the Nanjing University History Class of 1982. One classmate's father was killed during the Cultural Revolution for the crime of being an intellectual; another classmate labored in the fields for years rather than agree to a Party-arranged marriage; a third was forced to publicly denounce and humiliate her father. As we watch Pomfret and his classmates begin to make their lives as adults, we see as never before the human cost and triumph of China's transition from near-feudal communism to first-world capitalism.

Review:

"Pomfret's first sojourn in China came as an American exchange student at Nanjing University in 1981, near the outset of China's limited reopening to the West and its halting, chaotic and momentous conversion from Maoist totalitarianism to police state capitalism and status as world economic giant. Over the next two decades, he returned twice as a professional journalist and was an eyewitness to the events at Tiananmen Square in 1989. Pomfret's enthusiasm and personal access make this an engaging examination of three tumultuous decades, rooted in the stories of classmates whose remarkable grit and harrowing experiences neatly epitomize the sexual and cultural transformations, and the economic ups and downs, of China since the 1960s. At the same time, Pomfret draws on intimate conversations and personal diaries to paint idiosyncratic portraits with a vivid, literary flair. Viewing China's version of capitalism as an anomoly, and focused overwhelmingly within its national borders, the book's lack of a greater critical context will be limiting for some. But Pomfret's palpable and pithy first-hand depiction of the New China offers a swift, elucidating introduction to its awesome energies and troubling contradictions." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Those of us reporting on China a few years ago believed the big story of the early 21st century would be its transformation from impoverished pariah to economic juggernaut and global superpower. Instead, 9/11 shifted the attention of U.S. media to the Muslim world, and China became, as it had been for most of the previous 500 years, an intricate sideshow. That's a shame, because the massive societal... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"[Pomfret] loves China, and he excels at describing the minutiae that make up Chinese life....He makes an engaging, expert guide to the changes that have transformed China in the last quarter-century." New York Times

Review:

"A moving account of individual experiences, indispensable to anyone seeking to understand the precarious national psyche of the world's most populous nation." Kirkus Reviews

Synopsis:

A first-hand account of the remarkable transformation of China over the past forty years as seen through the life of an award-winning journalist and his four Chinese classmates

As a twenty-year-old exchange student from Stanford University, John Pomfret spent a year at Nanjing University in China. His fellow classmates were among those who survived the twin tragedies of Maos rule—the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution—and whose success in government and private industry today are shaping Chinas future. Pomfret went on to a career in journalism, spending the bulk of his time in China. After attending the twentieth reunion of his class, he decided to reacquaint himself with some of his classmates. Chinese Lessons is their story and his own.

Beginning with Pomfrets first days in China, Chinese Lessons takes us back to the often torturous paths that brought together the Nanjing University History Class of 1982. One classmates father was killed during the Cultural Revolution for the crime of being an intellectual; another classmate labored in the fields for years rather than agree to a Party-arranged marriage; a third was forced to publicly denounce and humiliate her father. As we watch Pomfret and his classmates begin to make their lives as adults, we see as never before the human cost and triumph of Chinas transition from near-feudal communism to first-world capitalism.

Synopsis:

A highly personal, honest, funny and well-informed account of China's hyperactive effort to forget its past and reinvent its future.--The New York Times Book Review John Pomfret is a reporter for The Washington Post. Formerly the Post's Beijing bureau chief, he is now the Los Angeles bureau chief. In 2003, Pomfret was awarded the Osborn Elliott Prize for Excellence in Asian Journalism by the Asia Society, an annual award for best coverage of Asia. He lives with his wife and family in Los Angeles. Shortlisted for the Kiriyama Prize As a twenty-two-year-old exchange student at Nanjing University in 1981, John Pomfret was one of the first American students to be admitted to China after the Communist Revolution of 1949. Living in a cramped dorm room, Pomfret was exposed to a country few outsiders had ever experienced, one fresh from the twin tragedies of Mao's rule--the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Twenty years after first leaving China, Pomfret returned to the university for a class reunion. Once again, he immersed himself in the lives of his classmates, especially the one woman and four men whose stories make up Chinese Lessons, an intimate and revealing portrait of the Chinese people. Beginning with Pomfret's first day in China, Chinese Lessons takes us back to the often torturous paths that brought together the Nanjing University History Class of 1982. We learn that Old Wu's father was killed during the Cultural Revolution for the crime of being an intellectual; Book Idiot Zhou labored in the fields for a year rather than agree to a Party-arranged marriage; Little Guan was forced to publicly denounce and humiliate her father. As we follow Pomfret's classmates from childhood to university and on to adulthood, we see the effect that the country's transition from near-feudal communism to First World capitalism has had on his classmates. A] compulsively readable new book on today's China . . . Chinese Lessons is a rich, first-hand account of modern Chinese history as it was lived and experienced by five of the author's 1981 classmates at Nanjing University . . . Pomfret's affection for the people he is writing about almost always shows through, which keeps Chinese Lessons from feeling like a polemic; the book's accumulation of acutely observed detail is compelling.--Karl Taro Greenfeld, The Washington Post Book World A] compulsively readable new book on today's China . . . Chinese Lessons is a rich, first-hand account of modern Chinese history as it was lived and experienced by five of the author's 1981 classmates at Nanjing University . . . Pomfret's affection for the people he is writing about almost always shows through, which keeps Chinese Lessons from feeling like a polemic; the book's accumulation of acutely observed detail is compelling. Pomfret ends by positing a notion that will be increasingly discussed in years to come as China's great opportunity for economic growth begins to look more and more like a wasted chance to improve the lives of so many of its people: 'The social contract hashed out by Deng--you can get rich if you keep your mouth shut--is fraying because too few people have won their share of the bargain.' If Pomfret is correct (and I think he is), China will still be the great story of the 21st century--not because of what has gone right but because of what has gone wrong.--Karl Taro Greenfeld, The Washington Post Book World Chinese Lessons . . . is a highly personal, honest, funny and well-informed account of China's hyperactive effort to forget its past and reinvent its future. What makes this book particularly rewarding is that Pomfret not only describes China today, he also reminds us what came before.--Orville Schell, The New York Times Book Review Pomfret] loves China, and he excels at describing the minutiae that make up Chinese life: the slang, the food, the bathrooms and the explosion of nouveau-riche bad taste in the boom towns and shopping districts. He makes an engaging, expert guide to the changes that have transformed China in the last quarter-century--William Grimes, The New York Times In this intimate and revealing book, John Pomfret shows why he is one of the great China correspondents of his generation: He has never held himself at a distance, but has plunged in, with vigor and an open mind. His approach to China has no tint of romanticism or awe; the lives he discovers and the stories he tells, including his own, are unvarnished, unexpected, and riveting.--Steve Coll, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars Chinese Lessons is an extraordinary book. Through telling the intimate stories of his former classmates, John Pomfret reveals a contemporary China where many individual lives have been thwarted and twisted. This is a book full of insights, honesty, and compassion. It touched me deeply.--Ha Jin, author of Waiting John Pomfret has written a brilliant, insightful book describing the dark side and human cost of the 'Chinese economic miracle.' His feel for China, based on years of living there, his fluency in Chinese, and his reporting genius cut through the sham and spin.--James R. Lilley, former U.S. Ambassador to China and chief of the American Mission in Taiwan Washington Post reporter Pomfret looks back at his student days at Nanjing University in 1981 and the lives of his classmates, survivors of one of the most tumultuous periods in the country's history. Readers numbed by the catalogue of crimes offered in Mao: The Unknown Story (2005), by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, will find them evoked here with more personal applications to the lives of Big Bluffer Ye, Book Idiot Zhou, Little Guan, Old Xu and Daybreak Song. Don't be misled by their jaunty college nicknames. These are the children of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, convulsive political purges unleashed by Mao. They witnessed (and sometimes were forced to act as accomplices to) the

About the Author

John Pomfret is a reporter for The Washington Post. Formerly the Post's Beijing bureau chief, he is now the Los Angeles bureau chief. In 2003, Pomfret was awarded the Osborn Elliott Prize for Excellence in Asian Journalism by the Asia Society, an annual award for best coverage of Asia. He lives with his wife and family in Los Angeles.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

J. Avina, February 19, 2007 (view all comments by J. Avina)
I found this book to be illuminating on several levels. The personal stories Pomfret shared regarding his classmates, mixed with the political wind from the '40's to now, placed into context issues I had not previously considered. His voice was strong as he guided us through a fast moving period of China's history. The players were so vibrant they entered my dreams. Excellent, informative read.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(3 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
ted123, September 16, 2006 (view all comments by ted123)
Interesting story on personal lives in a fast changing China. Full of delights and surprises. Good read. But its knowledge on the larger issues of China is limited. For this, I recommend another brilliant book to go with it: China's global reach: markets, multinationals, and globalization by Chinese commentator George Zhibin Gu, which offers vast insights on changing global production, investment and business as well as what is inside Chinese political and business world.
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(3 of 5 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 2 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780805076158
Subtitle:
Five Classmates and the Story of the New China
Author:
Pomfret, John
Publisher:
Holt Paperbacks
Subject:
History
Subject:
China
Subject:
Asia - China
Subject:
Foreign correspondents
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20070724
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
1 8-pg insert; 3 maps
Pages:
336
Dimensions:
8.04 x 5.26 x 0.875 in

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Asia » China » Peoples Republic 1949 to Present
History and Social Science » World History » China

Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China Used Hardcover
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Product details 336 pages Henry Holt & Company - English 9780805076158 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Pomfret's first sojourn in China came as an American exchange student at Nanjing University in 1981, near the outset of China's limited reopening to the West and its halting, chaotic and momentous conversion from Maoist totalitarianism to police state capitalism and status as world economic giant. Over the next two decades, he returned twice as a professional journalist and was an eyewitness to the events at Tiananmen Square in 1989. Pomfret's enthusiasm and personal access make this an engaging examination of three tumultuous decades, rooted in the stories of classmates whose remarkable grit and harrowing experiences neatly epitomize the sexual and cultural transformations, and the economic ups and downs, of China since the 1960s. At the same time, Pomfret draws on intimate conversations and personal diaries to paint idiosyncratic portraits with a vivid, literary flair. Viewing China's version of capitalism as an anomoly, and focused overwhelmingly within its national borders, the book's lack of a greater critical context will be limiting for some. But Pomfret's palpable and pithy first-hand depiction of the New China offers a swift, elucidating introduction to its awesome energies and troubling contradictions." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "[Pomfret] loves China, and he excels at describing the minutiae that make up Chinese life....He makes an engaging, expert guide to the changes that have transformed China in the last quarter-century."
"Review" by , "A moving account of individual experiences, indispensable to anyone seeking to understand the precarious national psyche of the world's most populous nation."
"Synopsis" by ,
A first-hand account of the remarkable transformation of China over the past forty years as seen through the life of an award-winning journalist and his four Chinese classmates

As a twenty-year-old exchange student from Stanford University, John Pomfret spent a year at Nanjing University in China. His fellow classmates were among those who survived the twin tragedies of Maos rule—the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution—and whose success in government and private industry today are shaping Chinas future. Pomfret went on to a career in journalism, spending the bulk of his time in China. After attending the twentieth reunion of his class, he decided to reacquaint himself with some of his classmates. Chinese Lessons is their story and his own.

Beginning with Pomfrets first days in China, Chinese Lessons takes us back to the often torturous paths that brought together the Nanjing University History Class of 1982. One classmates father was killed during the Cultural Revolution for the crime of being an intellectual; another classmate labored in the fields for years rather than agree to a Party-arranged marriage; a third was forced to publicly denounce and humiliate her father. As we watch Pomfret and his classmates begin to make their lives as adults, we see as never before the human cost and triumph of Chinas transition from near-feudal communism to first-world capitalism.

"Synopsis" by , A highly personal, honest, funny and well-informed account of China's hyperactive effort to forget its past and reinvent its future.--The New York Times Book Review John Pomfret is a reporter for The Washington Post. Formerly the Post's Beijing bureau chief, he is now the Los Angeles bureau chief. In 2003, Pomfret was awarded the Osborn Elliott Prize for Excellence in Asian Journalism by the Asia Society, an annual award for best coverage of Asia. He lives with his wife and family in Los Angeles. Shortlisted for the Kiriyama Prize As a twenty-two-year-old exchange student at Nanjing University in 1981, John Pomfret was one of the first American students to be admitted to China after the Communist Revolution of 1949. Living in a cramped dorm room, Pomfret was exposed to a country few outsiders had ever experienced, one fresh from the twin tragedies of Mao's rule--the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Twenty years after first leaving China, Pomfret returned to the university for a class reunion. Once again, he immersed himself in the lives of his classmates, especially the one woman and four men whose stories make up Chinese Lessons, an intimate and revealing portrait of the Chinese people. Beginning with Pomfret's first day in China, Chinese Lessons takes us back to the often torturous paths that brought together the Nanjing University History Class of 1982. We learn that Old Wu's father was killed during the Cultural Revolution for the crime of being an intellectual; Book Idiot Zhou labored in the fields for a year rather than agree to a Party-arranged marriage; Little Guan was forced to publicly denounce and humiliate her father. As we follow Pomfret's classmates from childhood to university and on to adulthood, we see the effect that the country's transition from near-feudal communism to First World capitalism has had on his classmates. A] compulsively readable new book on today's China . . . Chinese Lessons is a rich, first-hand account of modern Chinese history as it was lived and experienced by five of the author's 1981 classmates at Nanjing University . . . Pomfret's affection for the people he is writing about almost always shows through, which keeps Chinese Lessons from feeling like a polemic; the book's accumulation of acutely observed detail is compelling.--Karl Taro Greenfeld, The Washington Post Book World A] compulsively readable new book on today's China . . . Chinese Lessons is a rich, first-hand account of modern Chinese history as it was lived and experienced by five of the author's 1981 classmates at Nanjing University . . . Pomfret's affection for the people he is writing about almost always shows through, which keeps Chinese Lessons from feeling like a polemic; the book's accumulation of acutely observed detail is compelling. Pomfret ends by positing a notion that will be increasingly discussed in years to come as China's great opportunity for economic growth begins to look more and more like a wasted chance to improve the lives of so many of its people: 'The social contract hashed out by Deng--you can get rich if you keep your mouth shut--is fraying because too few people have won their share of the bargain.' If Pomfret is correct (and I think he is), China will still be the great story of the 21st century--not because of what has gone right but because of what has gone wrong.--Karl Taro Greenfeld, The Washington Post Book World Chinese Lessons . . . is a highly personal, honest, funny and well-informed account of China's hyperactive effort to forget its past and reinvent its future. What makes this book particularly rewarding is that Pomfret not only describes China today, he also reminds us what came before.--Orville Schell, The New York Times Book Review Pomfret] loves China, and he excels at describing the minutiae that make up Chinese life: the slang, the food, the bathrooms and the explosion of nouveau-riche bad taste in the boom towns and shopping districts. He makes an engaging, expert guide to the changes that have transformed China in the last quarter-century--William Grimes, The New York Times In this intimate and revealing book, John Pomfret shows why he is one of the great China correspondents of his generation: He has never held himself at a distance, but has plunged in, with vigor and an open mind. His approach to China has no tint of romanticism or awe; the lives he discovers and the stories he tells, including his own, are unvarnished, unexpected, and riveting.--Steve Coll, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars Chinese Lessons is an extraordinary book. Through telling the intimate stories of his former classmates, John Pomfret reveals a contemporary China where many individual lives have been thwarted and twisted. This is a book full of insights, honesty, and compassion. It touched me deeply.--Ha Jin, author of Waiting John Pomfret has written a brilliant, insightful book describing the dark side and human cost of the 'Chinese economic miracle.' His feel for China, based on years of living there, his fluency in Chinese, and his reporting genius cut through the sham and spin.--James R. Lilley, former U.S. Ambassador to China and chief of the American Mission in Taiwan Washington Post reporter Pomfret looks back at his student days at Nanjing University in 1981 and the lives of his classmates, survivors of one of the most tumultuous periods in the country's history. Readers numbed by the catalogue of crimes offered in Mao: The Unknown Story (2005), by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, will find them evoked here with more personal applications to the lives of Big Bluffer Ye, Book Idiot Zhou, Little Guan, Old Xu and Daybreak Song. Don't be misled by their jaunty college nicknames. These are the children of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, convulsive political purges unleashed by Mao. They witnessed (and sometimes were forced to act as accomplices to) the
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