Shawn's Reviews > Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China's Past and Present

Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler
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May 23, 2008

it was amazing
Recommended for: Readers interested in China
Read in July, 2008

Oracle Bones is the best book I've read about China. It's better than Hessler's first, River Town. I still feel like when I go home to the U.S. next year, what I do not understand about China will still be more than I do understand, but OB helped. It's an interesting book about modern China with some historical information thrown in.

I also laughed once, and felt like I probably ought to cry a couple of times, though it didn't literally bring me to tears. Ultimately, I figure I could feel despair for the Chinese, about the senseless loss that occurred here during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to '76. But on the other hand, think back to what you were doing during those years, if you are old enough.

I was in kindergarten in '66 in the USA. My family moved a lot for no other reason than we couldn't pay the rent, so I attended Jefferson Grade School, as well as: Mannors, Roosevelt, Marissa, Union, and back to Jefferson by the sixth grade. My father had a job for the government in '68-'69, shooting people with an M-16 in Vietnam, but other than that, he was unemployed and switched jobs a lot. Also in 1968, the West Side of Chicago was burned down by the inhabitants, as well as Watts housing projects in California, and other urban areas. Our ethnic groups were not happy in those years, nor was our government against cracking open the skulls of protestors at the '68 Democratic Convention. By the end of the Cultural Revolution, 1976, I was in high school. During that year, I was high 365 of the days, at least on marijuana and alcohol, although I threw in hallucinogens and narcotics whenever possible. I'm still here, so I turned out all right, notwithstanding my bad behavior.

Just to say: I don't wish to underestimate China's Cultural Revolution--I still think I was better off in America during those years; for sure I never starved, and rarely went without food. And my experience is not indicative of anyone else's during the same period, but just the same, in my contemplation of Oracle Bones, I needed to take a look at how I spent my Cultural Revolution years in order to find perspective.
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