A textured look at modern China

Had the good fortune to talk about Chinese Characters, the book of essays about everyday life in China that I co-edited with Jeff Wasserstrom, with Lisa Napoli on KCRW in Los Angeles. Here’s our chat:

Lisa wrote in the Which Way, LA blog: “There’s lots of news each day from and about China, but it’s rare that any of the broad brushstrokes we read and hear in the news introduce us to real people grappling with real issues.” Couldn’t agree more.

Part 2 of my interview with Rob Schmitz

In the Los Angeles Review of Books:

In part 2 of this interview, Rob Schmitz talks more about factory workers in China, the vast system of netting installed at factory dormitories to cut back on worker suicides, the problems with and opportunities for doing responsible journalism in China, and his book recommendations.

Listen here.

First press on Chinese Characters comes from Beijing

The collection of essays about everyday lives in China that I have been working on for about two years made its pre-publication debut in China at the M Literary Festival. Chinese Characters contributors Evan Osnos, Ian Johnson, Michelle Loyalka, Christina Larson and my co-editor Jeffrey Wasserstrom spoke on the “Art of the Profile” at a Beijing panel discussion earlier this month.

Our first mass media press, therefore, also happened in China. The English-language Beijing newspaper Global Times sent a reporter to the panel, who in turn wrote a preview article of our book. The story, “China at face value,” begins this way:

“There has never been a lack of good books about the history of China, from detailed analytical narration of its 5,000-year civilization to numerous travelogues depicting the country’s vast, grandeur landscapes.

“Although the Middle Kingdom has always held allure to outsiders, ordinary Chinese folks, or laobaixing, are often seen as just faces in the crowd. However, those faces are given a chance to bask in the spotlight in Chinese Characters: Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land, a book co-edited by Jeffrey Wasserstrom, a history professor at the University of California, and Angilee Shah, a freelance journalist and editor in Los Angeles.”

NPR correspondence by email and me in print

The China Beat just ran an email interview I did with Louisa Lim, the dynamic Shanghai correspondent for National Public Radio, formerly of the BBC. My favorite part?

When we arrived at their office, their faces fell. We sat around, drinking tea and waiting. In the next room, we could hear the government officials conferring with each other worriedly, “What’s the BBC doing?”, they were asking. “Do you think these are real reporters? They look more like kids on work experience.”

Writing for The China Beat has been pretty exciting lately, not least because my name is now inexplicably in the same sentence as Peter Hessler’s and in the table of contents of a bonafied book. Thanks, China Beat folks, for letting me interlope.