Tan has potential as a writer. Hopefully being long listed for the Man Booker will clean up some of the editing a bit. I enjoyed about 2/3rds of the b...moreTan has potential as a writer. Hopefully being long listed for the Man Booker will clean up some of the editing a bit. I enjoyed about 2/3rds of the book before my interest wained. I have too many on my list to read to not have much desire to continue reading.(less)
Out of the selection of books that I've picked up that Goodreads has recommended, this one is so far the best. While I've struggled with Peace Corps/E...moreOut of the selection of books that I've picked up that Goodreads has recommended, this one is so far the best. While I've struggled with Peace Corps/Expat books mainly because I'm wistful for my own experience, but a lot of them are just so poorly executed in my mind. This one, however, was mostly positive, but like some of the other reviews, I'm not too happy with the timeline that she focused on for a 300 page book. It did seem like a lot, her time in the Peace Corps (which ends up being about a year), and then her time in Uganda, up to their move to Uzbekistan. While I think it was important for the background of meeting her husband, there were some questions that popped in my mind as I continued to read: If the rape of her friend in the Peace Corps triggered her own assault memories, I'm surprised it hadn't come up prior to that working as a rape counselor, dealing with it on a more regular basis. Also, being in remote settings does trigger a lot of other troubles if you've had your own instability, which I'm speaking from experience. While she touches on this in her time in Uganda, it doesn't seem to draw on it much further. While I understand it's a very personal thing, either you disclose the information, or you leave it out. There are plenty of things my family and friends in the States will never hear about of my time in China, mostly because it's personal, or I just know they won't understand, being someone who has never experienced China long term. Her whining at parts did irritate me to a certain degree, while I do think she did encapsulate the experience of being an expat, both with the frustrations and joys that come with it pretty well. I enjoyed the letters that she included at the end of each chapter, I just felt that this would have been better had she expanded more on more than just her Ugandan experience.(less)
I liked the last few chapters of this book, because it actually shocker fit into what she had claimed that she was going to write about. It could have...moreI liked the last few chapters of this book, because it actually shocker fit into what she had claimed that she was going to write about. It could have also been that the other chapters were just so poorly organized....The first few chapters seemed mundane and judgmental, and the biggest issue that I had was that the primary source that she quoted was a FICTION book. She supposedly has a PhD in linguistics. While I have no problem with the book she quoted, and it did bring up interesting points, but if you are writing a non-fiction book, I would hope that you would do a little more research than primarily using a fiction point, the Chinese wives of expats (which after living in China myself, the Chinese that attach themselves romantically to westerners aren't always the best representation of the Chinese...), her husband, and a fiction book. For someone whom claims that she has traveled the world, I just found that she didn't really give the concept of Chinese linguistics the proper justice it approaches... it just fits more into the average cliche travel writer. This book falls more along the lines of a bipolar book where her thoughts (while some were true and justified) they just seemed far more typical of someone whom was just passing through China. She didn't spend much time outside of Beijing or Shanghai, which you might as well be living in Chinatown of any major city with that aspect... certainly not what I had wanted and a very generic approach to a country and a language that is anything but generic. A book I'd certainly tell anyone whom plans to just pass through China on the stereotypical spots (Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong) and not really spend much time beyond a month in China. Any one that's spent any decent time in China, I'm sure many of you'd have much of the same issues I had.(less)
The Lost Daughters of China is a book that addresses Karin Evans' experience adopting her daughter from China. While it is important enough with a lot...moreThe Lost Daughters of China is a book that addresses Karin Evans' experience adopting her daughter from China. While it is important enough with a lot of the history this book despite it being about ten years old.
I enjoyed a lot of the history fact of it, and I think this book would be paired well with Ann Hood's fiction book along the same lines, as it gives better history facts.
That being said, while I enjoyed parts of it, I had read or previously known a lot of the history of gendercide in China. There are some former colleagues of mine that are currently adopting children, so I've learned much of their adoption process and the mounds of hassles and paperwork that goes towards adopting their child. The flip side was that their child is one of the few boys that are given up due to health reasons.
There have also been a lot of other things written recently for the Economist, on similar subjects so while I felt it wasn't new for me. I think this would be a reasonable intro to the concepts of China and adopting young girls.(less)
I've decided to give up on this book, and from what I have read, I will give it a star and a half. I'm getting very frustrated with it because she see...moreI've decided to give up on this book, and from what I have read, I will give it a star and a half. I'm getting very frustrated with it because she seems to be making the same dumb mistakes with a lot of things which I'll expand on below:
1. While I'm not expecting great writing for Peace Corps Lit, however, this one is really bottom of the barrel. I've been spoiled with reading Micheal Myer and Peter Hessler whom both did Peace Corps, but managed to incorporate much more to their personal journey than Herrera did in their writing and their personal narrative was far less in your face.
2. Being abroad is a very personal journey for many, and is certainly not for the faint of heart. It's difficult and certainly brings it's extreme joys and pitfalls. However, there's a line of what I want to read about and what I don't when I'm reading about your personal experience. She was really all over the place in what she choose to include with a variety of different things: letters, poems (which were poorly written and angsty), and short narrative chapters. She chose a writing style in which she chooses to write as if her audience for her book is her best friend. While I certainly kept my own journal of writing while abroad, there is a lot of my own personal thoughts and developmental process and streamlining writing that I would never subjugate any reader but myself too. I felt in many of her little chapters and letters that she chose to include that she never turned this filter off, and while I don't know her, there were certainly some stories that I cared not to read.
3. After spending almost three years abroad myself, I can understand the personal journey and frustrations of being abroad. That being said, I can chaulk up to some stupid repetitive mistakes, but certainly some of her mistakes are signs that she really had no business being in the Peace Corps, in Africa or even abroad for that matter. Who in their right mind goes off Malaria pills while in a high Malaria zone, and then be surprised when she contracts it and nearly dies from it?
4. As I aforementioned, she chose to enter the Peace Corps after being abused as a child (and her psychiatrist had pretty much claimed that she had significant work to do) and what seemed like a pretty emotional divorce. These are big red flags, and while I can appreciate others wanting to use time abroad as a personal self discovery, the Peace Corps is by no means a good way to do it. The whole point of the Peace Corps is to place you in areas of high needs, and often in places where you have to do your own personal and professional development, with very little support, and often in places without many people in your widespread area with similar backgrounds (being from a western, developed country). As a direct result she spiraled down in many ways, that can happen to the best of us, but she certainly was in not in reasonable emotional state to do the Peace Corps, so I found what little bit I did read to be significantly more whiney, which brings me back to point number 2.
5. All of these being said, I find it hard to believe that she was able to publish this book. I guess it's the same sort of question I'd raise with the 50 Shades of Grey series mostly due to the overall poor writing skills, and lack of knowledge of the audience, and the whole all over the place presentation of a whole grey picture. There were so many red flags with this book and I only made it half way through, I could only find myself getting more and more irked by her writing.
It's disappointing, because it's been several weeks since I've really had much of a book that hasn't waned my interest after mid way through. I wouldn't recommend this book to most. I didn't think that I'd really have this many issues with a book, but there's a first time for everything I guess...(less)
It was an interesting read, and he had some valid points about living and working in China. He was the first to admit any part of homesickness. I thin...moreIt was an interesting read, and he had some valid points about living and working in China. He was the first to admit any part of homesickness. I think had I read this prior to Michael Meyer and Peter Hessler's work I would have enjoyed it more. I was also surprised he never really explored anywhere outside the immediate area he worked in other than the places his basketball team went to. He certainly was able to experience the idea of living in China, but like I said, I had enjoyed the other foreigners in China books more.(less)
I thought it was well written, and fit living in small town China well. He really had a knack for describing daily life as a laowai teacher in China....moreI thought it was well written, and fit living in small town China well. He really had a knack for describing daily life as a laowai teacher in China. It's funny how the time frame was about 10 years ago, and while the development of China has changed, a lot of the feelings and sentiments towards foreigners in many respects are still the same. I look forward to completing his other works.(less)
I think for someone who English wasn't a native language, this book was pretty well written. While most people seemed to struggle and have an overall...moreI think for someone who English wasn't a native language, this book was pretty well written. While most people seemed to struggle and have an overall negative experience during the cultural revolution, it was nice to read a book where it wasn't something completely awful for her. While things were no means perfect, Li seemed to make the best of it, and overcame the challenges quite well. Fairly quick read.(less)
I am probably more familiar with the Gobi, and cultural ideas of Mongolians than most people who read this book. I find her view of the Mongolian peop...moreI am probably more familiar with the Gobi, and cultural ideas of Mongolians than most people who read this book. I find her view of the Mongolian people pretty far from the cultural group and minorities themselves.
When I had originally got this book, I was hoping more for a decent overview of the flora and fauna of the desert. While, it being a desert, I realize that there isn't much of it, but there is a fair amount of history and conservation efforts of the Gobi bear and Bactine Camels. She briefly touches on them. She has ample opportunities to identify some of the snakes that they come across but instead she can only seem to manage to explain the lengths that she and her husband go to avoid them. She could have gone into a decent description of the plants found there and the shrubs, but like the snakes she doesn't just complains about the challenge of getting through them. They even make a side trip to see where remains of where dinosaurs had been found, but again for someone who claims to be an adventurer who does classroom work, there's little to no description of what she finds.
I find that she had photos at the beginning of each section, which didn't match what the following chapter was about. I would have liked some description about the photos that she included and why she chose those over what I'm sure to be thousands of photos.
Her writing style and ability to write certainly doesn't match other travel writers, and while I've been spoiled with Bill Bryson and some other travel writers, I found this book overall to be disappointing because mostly with something as amazing and auspicious as the Gobi Desert is, I really don't feel like she's done it proper justice in this book where she spends most of the book complaining about the heat and long trek, but she chose to go. I just didn't care to read as much about her bitter complaints about something she chose to do. She was brash and judgmental at times, and had opportunities to go further with descriptions of nomadic tribes rather than describing the fatty meat they serve every chapter. The fact that she choose to be less of a fly on the wall is a shame for a travel writer, nor did I really care to read about how she chose to negatively portray people that she seemed to know very little about.
However, I do believe that this book does has its moments. I find her segments from her journal that she includes to be more interesting than the actual book; it's certainly a shame that she didn't include more instead of what she actually published. It's a shame that I've been reading more books this year that I don't really like. (less)
Overall, I think it was a reasonable biography of Iris Chang, as an author and her relationship with her parents. I felt that it was in a way just fin...moreOverall, I think it was a reasonable biography of Iris Chang, as an author and her relationship with her parents. I felt that it was in a way just finely focused on her getting to her writing career. It was one sided in the sense that her mother wrote the book, so overall, I don't think she had a reasonable distance or subjective view on her life. On that same note, it did provide more of a personal insight into some of her daily life, that I don't think would have been added had it been another author.
The book however, left me wanting more. There were some details I felt the mother just seemed so focused on that didn't really properly seem to keep the book going (i.e. details about materials bought for birthday parties and such). The relationship with her brother and husband seemed to be put on the back burner, which was a shame. They were included in the book but not nearly to the extent that I think they had in her life. I would have liked to know more about her relationship with her brother, as well as with her husband.
The book certainly did provide some interesting insight into the research and work that goes into writing a book and the toll it takes on a family. Provided some interesting backstory to what she did write.(less)
I really enjoyed this book. After having spent time myself wandering the streets (could have been the old streets he mentioned), it was enjoyable seei...moreI really enjoyed this book. After having spent time myself wandering the streets (could have been the old streets he mentioned), it was enjoyable seeing Beijing through another person's eyes. After having worked in China myself, in other cities, I to a certain extent pick up the desire most foreigners have after living in China, to eat non-Chinese food (i.e. those good random fusion resturants, decent western food, and the endless parade of Starbucks and Subway.) I unlike other foreigners still like poking in the old Beijing found wandering in those little mom and pop galleries and markets, as much as I like picking up western books and food.
The book itself was well researched, on a topic that I'm sure at times was difficult to find anything, and be able to portray it in an authentic way without being kicked out of the country.
It's a book that I would certainly suggest to those who will be going to Beijing, have an interest in Beijing, or have already been.
I enjoyed many of his little vinghnets of the city and experiences within the city.
I loved how one of his students commented on how they wanted to be a foreigner. The descriptions of the family who raised pigeons as a hobby were fascinating, as pigeons are viewed as such a dirty critter here. The widow's story was heart wrenching. I was curious to know more and more about her as the book progressed, and it was well worth the wait when I got to her chapter. Reading about her made me think whistfully of some of the older Chinese women I had come across in my time in China, being the mothers of some of my Chinese friends.
Some one-to-two-line zingers that I enjoyed from the book:
"I often say that on the eintire earth, there isn't a nation that could, in the name of the Olympics, destroy its own cities, and its own history. Beijing needs people who love to talk less and love to do more. They are just changing the appearance of Dazhalan, but that's not real, that's just fake antique. They don't want genuine history, but a pretend history." (p. 255) I find that this wasn't just true in Beijing, though. Certainly the idea of the Olympics did one up this in Beijing, but it's true through much of China. You look at Shanghai, a city that no longer has the real parts of China (aside from maybe the slums). When I lived in the middle of the country, my apartment buliding was updated by first knocking out all the windows from the top floor down, putting styrofoam over the existing brick, a thin layer of cement stucco, and then painted and fake bricks put on the bottom, then replacing the windows. China, and very evidently so, in Beijing, is all about the illusion of grandure.
Further in this page, Meyer is having a disscussion with a friend: "There is no such thing as a development company loosing tens of thousands by protecting a building. You can't say you're not profiting tens of thousands additionally. Earning less does not equal losing money." p 225-2556. Again, it's interesting to see that I'm not the only one who understands the overall lust that drives forth in the Chinese economy.
"The pond where Lao She (a Chinese architecht during the Great Leap Forward) was filled in with soil the razed city wall. Today, the site is a subway station." The sad thing, with much of the development of any country, not just China, is that historically important sites are becoming so meaningless, or rather a side bar to development. Lao She had written at this spot, "Facing it, with the city wall at my back, sitting atop a stone and watching the tadpoles on the water and the tender dragonflies atop the reeds, I could happily pass a day, my heart is completely at ease, without demands or fears, like a baby sleeping peacefully in a crib." (both quotes are from p. 289.)
There were students from Beijing Number 4 middle school, that wrote a letter to the mayor asking "If a city does not have its own culture and its own history, what makes it different from any other city? The skyscrappers we build in Beijing are commonplace, while our courtyards and hutong are unique in the world. Why in the name of following a trend, should we destroy this priceless treasure? We do not want to carry the stigma of being known as the people who destroyed Beijing's culture nor the last generation that witnessed its past-- but what can we do? What is in our power is so much less than what you can do." (p. 293)
Meyer had gone to a conference in Berlin as part of the research of this book. He was talking to an ambassador about the city, maintaning the history better than the city of Beijing. His comment had been, "The presenece of Berlin as a city represents and reflects the taste of its residents." Meyer followed up with If that's true, I really feel embarrased because the presence of Beijing thus also reflects the taste of it's residents. (p. 293)
He also brings up the valid point, of how with the idea of China wants to develop into the lifestyle of the western countries. "It's getting harder to protect the environment after China entered the World Trade Organization. The economy is growing so fast, and everyone is trying to get rich in the shortest time. If 1.3 billion want to get rich, just imagine the pressure-- it's enormous upon natural resources. Arable land, forest, grassland, water, all divided between 1.3 billion shares. Chinese want to live the life Americans have. The energy consumption of the U.S. is fourteen time that of the per capata consumption of a Chinese person. America has two hundred sixty million people, and one hundred thirty million cars. Chinese see this, they know this. And they want it. But if China wants to reach that way of life, then we need seven earths to support them. This i the darkest side of China. We want to imitate everything from the West."
He tends to favor the aspect of wanting to maintain old Beijing, which is very much the charm of the city. Saying that I myself have also spent some time in the city (no where near the amount of time that he has spent there), I tend to agree with the argument that he fronts in the book. It's harder to judge overall concepts saying that I went into it knowing that we had similar beliefs on this front.(less)
I think this collection of stories is a mixed bag. I think the subject matter is important to bring about. It's hard to plug through these stories sub...moreI think this collection of stories is a mixed bag. I think the subject matter is important to bring about. It's hard to plug through these stories subject matter wise as well as language wise. I think it is extremely difficult to write on any matter concerning abuse, and Akpan's doesn't seem to impose the same sort of desire to want to change the affects of what is present in other war crime or abuse stories. He told you about the charachters, and the horrible situations they were in, but didn't seem to make you care about them enough to want go do something, which is too bad. I just had a hard time gaining and maintaining interest in the book.(less)