Chinese Characters by James Hugh Carter
Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land

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The female stories told here feel slight compared with those of the men. And the stories are captured almost entirely by Western, not Chinese, eyes.
-LA Times


An artist paints landscapes of faraway places that she cannot identify in order to find her place in the global economy. A migrant worker sorts recyclables and thinks deeply about the soul of his country, while a Taoist mystic struggles to keep his traditions alive. An entrepreneur capitalizes on a growing car culture by trying to convince people not to buy cars. And a 90-year-old woman remembers how the oldest neighborhoods of her city used to be.

These are the exciting and saddening, humorous and confusing stories of utterly ordinary people who are living through China's extraordinary transformations. The immense variety in the lives of these Chinese characters dispels any lingering sense that China has a monolithic population or is just a place where dissidents fight Communist Party loyalists and laborers create goods for millionaires.

Chinese Characters is a collection, as Pankaj Mishra writes in his foreword, "to herald a new golden age of journalism about a ceaselessly fascinating country." Contributors include a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, a Macarthur Fellow, the China correspondent to a major Indian newspaper, and scholars whose depth of understanding is matched only by the humanity with which they treat their subjects. Their stories together create a multi-faceted portrait of a country in motion and an introduction to some of the best writing on China today.

With contributions from:

Alec Ash

James Carter

Leslie T. Chang

Xujun Eberlein

Harriet Evans

Anna Greenspan

Peter Hessler

Ian Johnson

Ananth Krishnan

Christina Larson

Michelle Dammon Loyalka

James Millward

Evan Osnos

Jeffrey Prescott

Megan Shank


About James Hugh Carter

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Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of books such as China in the 21st Century, Global Shanghai, and China’s Brave New World, and the editor of the Journal of Asian Studies. Angilee Shah is a freelance journalist. Her work has appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Mother Jones, TimeOut Singapore, Global Voices, and AsiaMedia, among other publications.
Published September 28, 2012 by University of California Press. 248 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, History, Travel. Non-fiction
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LA Times

Below average
Reviewed by Julie Makinen on Nov 04 2012

The female stories told here feel slight compared with those of the men. And the stories are captured almost entirely by Western, not Chinese, eyes.

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