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Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China Paperback – July 24, 2007
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Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
More About the Author
He has been a foreign correspondent for 15 years, covering big wars and small in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Congo, Sri Lanka, Iraq, southwestern Turkey and northeastern Iran. Pomfret has spent seven years covering China - one in the late 1980s during the Tiananmen Square protests and then from 1998 until the end of 2003 as the bureau chief for The Washington Post in Beijing. Returning to the United States in 2004, Pomfret was the paper's West Coast bureau chief for two years before being appointed the editor of its Outlook section, the Post's weekly commentary section, which he ran from 2007 until September 2009.
Pomfret speaks, reads and writes Mandarin, having spent two years at Nanjing University in the early 1980s as part of one of the first groups of American students to study in China. He has been a bartender in Paris and practiced Judo in Japan.
In 2003, Pomfret was awarded the Osborne Elliot Award for the best coverage of Asia by the Asia Society. In 2007, Pomfret was awarded the Shorenstein Award from Harvard and Stanford universities for his lifetime coverage of Asia. In 2011, he was awarded the Weintal Award from Georgetown University for diplomatic coverage.
He is the author of the critically-acclaimed "Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China."
Top Customer Reviews
Book-Idiot Zhou confides to Pomfret that he was a tormentor, not a victim, during the Cultural Revoluiton. Later, he alternates teaching Marxist history with deal-making in the urine industry. Song, a born Romeo, falls for an Italian woman and has sneak-away trysts. My own favorite was Little Guan, persecuted at age 11 for wiping herself with a piece of paper that said 'Long live Chairman Mao. She is a cheerful fighter, and bucks the odds over and over to succeed.
Pomfret is masterful. Armed with a fluent Chinese and a deft pen, he becomes an outstanding journalist, leading the coverage of Tiananmen, being formally expelled from China, and coming back again as Beijing Bureau chief for the Washington Post to establish himself as the dean of foreign correspondents. His newspaper stories were the gold standard of China coverage for several years. In this book, more than anything, it is his extraordinary ability to learn, ruminate and convey the stories of his Chinese classmates that stands out. Highly recommended.
Pomfret was 21 when he commenced his studies at Nanjing University in 1980, near the beginning of China's reopening to the outside world after the convulsive Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 70s. He has since devoted much of his life to reporting on China.
In Chinese Lessons, his first book, Pomfret skillfully weaves intimate stories of several Nanjing University classmates together with his own personal narrative as an astute observer of the country's explosive transformation from communist hermit to capitalist factory to the world.
The stories Pomfret tells of his classmates and their families stretch back to the revolutionary political movements of the 1950s and 60s and forward to the capitalist present. Through the window of these fascinating lives one sees the corrosive effects of Mao's catastrophic politics on human relationships and beliefs, effects that are still being felt today and will continue to shape the country's future for decades to come.
No great familiarity with contemporary China and its recent past is required to be riveted and informed by this compelling book. Highly recommended.
This is a great book and that is not something I ever say lightly. Pomfret's fine-honed skills as a reporter are everywhere in evidence, as well as the depth of research that stands behind his observations and the conclusions he draws from them. He is a wonderfully gifted writer and has the ability to create multiple personalities and whole scenes with an economy of descriptive and effective words. His love of China is coupled with the objective eye of the true reporter and, there again, the professional shows, but unobtrusively. The thing I love most of all is the many ways in which Pomfret is able to teach his readers without any condescension whatsoever while, at the same time, revealing himself as a colorful, strong and fragile man. He is intimate with us and yet ever more impressive.
After working in Shanghai twice in the '80s I am now not at all sure I want to return to the China of Big Bluffer Ye but I treasure the memories I have even more and feel I have learned more from 'Chinese Lessons' than I would have absorbed in a lifetime of living there. This book is a never-to-be-forgotten work of brilliant reporting, stirring (and often funny) personal history, and true art. A Standing Ovation for John Pomfret!!!
Pomfret's narrative is built upon the life stories of five of his Chinese university classmates. Their lives are retold with wit and insight. Cumulatively, the reader gains a very substantial and nuanced understanding of the forces, political and social, that pushed China first beyond the brink of chaos during the Cultural Revolution and then, over the succeeding 25 years, to a place of central importance in the world.
No country has ever grown so fast for so long as China over the last 25 years, nor undergone such a thoroughgoing process of radical, and largely positive change. How was this achieved? This book provides answers. Indeed, for me, the lessons learned from reading "Chinese Lessons" are many, and valuable. The book is a superb achievement.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great background book on how China was transformed during and after Mao. Helps you to understand what the Chinese have been through, and what the future may hold. Read morePublished 6 months ago by D. L. POHLE
This was a good read. Very interesting and written from an interesting perspective - a student and his peers. Some heart-renching stories.Published 9 months ago by Paulz
Journalist John Pomfret was an exchange student at the elite Nanjing University in the early 1980's. Read morePublished 10 months ago by A. Silverstone
I bought the book to get to know China before our first-time trip there and found it very interesting introduction to evolution of nowadays China.Published 11 months ago by vlo
Just amazing. Chinese Lessons its elegant, funny and smart telling the both, the story of Pomfret and the changes in China during the second half of the 20th century. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Laura Rojas Aponte
As a middle-aged Chinese-American finding myself working back in China, this book gave lots of insights as to why the Mainland Chinese behave as they do, especially amongst the... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Captain 9G
Outstanding book. The story keeps your interest and move quickly. Well done!Published 19 months ago by robert e. stone