Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China John Pomfret
As one of the first American students admitted to China after the communist revolution, John Pomfret was exposed to a country still emerging from the twin tragedies of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Crammed into a dorm room with seven Chinese men, Pomfret contended with all manner of cultural differences, from too-short beds and roommates intent on glimpsing a white man naked, to the need for cloak-and-dagger efforts to conceal his relationships with Chinese women.
Pomfret follows his classmates from childhood to adulthood, he examines the effect of China’s transition from near-feudal communism to first-world capitalism. The result is an illuminating report from present-day China, and a moving portrait of its extraordinary people.
“At a time when so many books about China are written from a distance– their authors having spent only a short time in the country, if any time at all – thank goodness for Chinese Lessons” – Wall Street Journal
“Pomfret's stories are riveting in their colour and detail ... your empathy centre would have to be cauterised not to respond to Chinese Lessons.” - Australian Literary Review
“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
“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
MEMOIR Brazil 2009 · Landscape
Australia 2007 · Scribe
USA 2006 · Henry Holt