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Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us about Living in the Westby T R Reid
Synopses & Reviews
Those who've heard T. R. Reid's weekly commentary on National Public Radio or read his far-flung reporting in National Geographic or The Washington Post know him to be trenchant, funny, and cutting-edge, but also erudite and deeply grounded in whatever subject he's discussing. In Confucius Lives Next Door he brings all these attributes to the fore as he examines why Japan, China, Taiwan, and other East Asian countries enjoy the low crime rates, stable families, excellent education, and civil harmony that remain so elusive in the West. Reid, who has spent twenty-five years studying Asia and was for five years The Washington Post's Tokyo bureau chief, uses his family's experience overseas--including mishaps and misapprehensions--to look at Asia's "social miracle" and its origin in the ethical values outlined by the Chinese sage Confucius 2,500 years ago.
When Reid, his wife, and their three children moved from America to Japan, the family quickly became accustomed to the surface differences between the two countries. In Japan, streets don't have names, pizza comes with seaweed sprinkled on top, and businesswomen in designer suits and Ferragamo shoes go home to small concrete houses whose washing machines are outdoors because there's no room inside. But over time Reid came to appreciate the deep cultural differences, helped largely by his courtly white-haired neighbor Mr. Matsuda, who personified ancient Confucian values that are still dominant in Japan. Respect, responsibility, hard work--these and other principles are evident in Reid's witty, perfectly captured portraits, from that of the school his young daughters attend, in which the students maintain order and scrub the floors, to his depiction of the corporate ceremony that welcomes new employees and reinforces group unity. And Reid also examines the drawbacks of living in such a society, such as the ostracism of those who don't fit in and the acceptance of routine political bribery.
Much Western ink has been spilled trying to figure out the East, but few journalists approach the subject with T. R. Reid's familiarity and insight. Not until we understand the differences between Eastern and Western perceptions of what constitutes success and personal happiness will we be able to engage successfully, politically and economically, with those whose moral center is governed by Confucian doctrine. Fascinating and immensely readable, Confucius Lives Next Door prods us to think about what lessons we might profitably take from the "Asian Way"--and what parts of it we want to avoid.
"This is a fascinating book written in simple prose and humorous style, yet it is serious in its content, by a National Public Radio commentator, and a Washington Post and National Geographic reporter, who fell in love with the East and has become an 'expert' on the region. The work amounts to memoirs and descriptions of first-hand experiences of living and traveling, by the writer and his American family, in Japan, China, Taiwan, Malaysia and other East and South Asian countries. It provides the reader with glimpses of daily life in these countries as viewed by Westerners; it also reveals those countries from the vantage point of their citizens. Additionally, the book also reveals impressions of America as viewed by citizens of those Eastern countries and insights of the writer. The book is divided into 10 chapters, in addition to appendix, acknowledgments, index, and a note on sources. Although it is not intended as a history source, there is much general history that the reader can learn from this book; also there are ample sociological/anthropological comments that can widen one's horizons about lands that are little known in the West. A major attraction of this book is its amusing and entertaining presentation of daily interactions and scenes, especially through the medium of translations of English sentences into Japanese and other linguistic games that Reid employs very deftly." Reviewed by Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
About the Author
Through his reporting for The Washington Post , his syndicated weekly column, and his lighthearted commentary from around the world for National Public Radio, T. R. Reid has become one of America's best-known foreign correspondents.
Reid majored in Latin and Greek at Princeton University. As a naval officer during the Vietnam War, he began to recognize the richness of East Asia's cultural tradition. He moved to Kumamoto, Japan, in 1973, sparking a love affair with Asia that has never flagged. In 1977, he joined The Washington Post, where he has worked as a political reporter and foreign correspondent.
T. R. Reid has written five books in English and two in Japanese. He has made documentary films for various television networks.
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History and Social Science » Asia » Japan » Contemporary 1945 to Present
History and Social Science » World History » Japan