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A Comrade Lost and Found: A Beijing Story Hardcover – February 19, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (February 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 015101342X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151013425
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,776,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. As a young student, award-winning Canadian journalist Wong (Red China Blues) spent a year in Beijing on a foreign exchange program during the cultural revolution, and in this suspenseful, elegantly written book, she recounts her return to the city in an effort to find a former classmate she betrayed with grave consequences. As a fervent young Maoist eager to fit in with her compatriots, the author had voluntarily informed on Yin Luoyi, who had been interested in visiting America at a time when expressing approval for the imperialist running dogs could lead to expulsion, ostracism or worse; Yin was expelled from the school. Wong returns to a transformed Beijing. Gone is the semirural capital where the author's revolutionary course of study included bouts of hard labor and self criticism sessions. In its place are eight-lane expressways lit up like Christmas trees, shiny skyscrapers and the largest shopping mall in the world. Wong is a gifted storyteller, and hers is a deeply personal and richly detailed eyewitness account of China's journey to glossy modernity. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

In the 1970s, Wong, a Canadian student with idealized views of Communist China, got the opportunity to study at Beijing University. Swallowing Mao’s doctrine hook, line, and sinker, Wong turned in a fellow student, Yin Luoyi, after the girl approached her about finding a way to get to the United States. In 2006, Wong—now a married journalist with two sons—travels with her family to Beijing with the intention of finding Yin, not an easy task in a country where people routinely change their phone numbers—and even their names. The journey takes Wong back into her past, as she reconnects with teachers and fellow students from Beijing University, and gives her a glimpse into the way the Chinese are rapidly and eagerly embracing capitalism and technology. It couldn’t have been easy for Wong to write a book about a shameful act from her youth, but she approaches the subject with courage, grace, and dignity, offering readers fresh insights into China and her people during the Cultural Revolution and today. --Kristine Huntley

More About the Author

Website: www.janwong.ca

Jan Wong was the first of only two Westerners to study in China during the Cultural Revolution, a tale she recounts in her memoir, Red China Blues, My Long March from Mao to Now. Named one of Time magazines top ten books of 1996, Red China Blues remains banned in China.

Jan is a third-generation Canadian who grew up in Montreal speaking English and French. In the summer of 1972, while majoring in Asian studies at McGill University, she traveled alone to the People's Republic of China. There, she talked her way into a spot at Beijing University. She became fluent in Mandarin as a result of being the one and only student of a humorless Communist Party official (whom she nicknamed Fu the Enforcer.) On Saturday afternoons, as part of Chairman Mao's Revolution-in-Education Movement, Jan also dug ditches, hauled pig manure and harvested wheat, shoulder to shoulder with her Chinese roommate, Scarlet.

Later, as a foreign correspondent based in Beijing for six years, Jan was an eyewitness to the 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square.

She began her journalism career in 1979 as a news assistant for The New York Times in Beijing where she reported on Democracy Wall and the beginnings of dissent in China. She was a staff reporter at The Gazette in Montreal, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal and The Globe and Mail. For six years, she wrote about celebrities in her weekly column, "Lunch With Jan Wong". She is a recipient of the George Polk Award in the U.S., a National Newspaper Award in Canada, the New England Press Association Newswoman of the Year Award, the Stanley MacDowell Prize for Writing, the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Silver Medal and the Daily Bread Food Bank Public Education Award, among other honors.

Jan has degrees from McGill University (honors history) and Beijing University (Chinese history). She also has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

Her other non-fiction books are:

Jan Wong's China, Reports from a Not-So-Foreign Correspondent
Lunch With Jan Wong, Sweet and Sour Celebrity Interviews
Beijing Confidential, A Tale of Comrades Lost and Found*

Her latest book, Out of the Blue, a Memoir of Loss, Recovery, Renewal and, Yes, Happiness, will be published in 2011. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two sons. She has taught journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto. In Fall 2010, she will be the Visiting Irving Chair of Journalism at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

*Beijing Confidential is published as:

*Chinese Whispers, A Journey Into Betrayal in the UK
A Comrade Lost and Found, A Beijing Story in the US
Pechino Confidential, La rivoluzione culturale e la scomoda eredita maoista in un toccante viaggio nel cuore della nuova Citta Proibita in Italy
Beijing Confidential, Lost and Found in the Forbidden City in Australia and N.Z.
Pékin Confidentiel in France

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Irene Eng on October 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
The author wrote one book on how she turned her unsuspecting Beida (Peking University) classmate in; and in this book she told the story on how she had overcome impossible hurdles to find the classmate so she could apologize to her - profiting twice. Well, one little thing's hard to ignor: finding someone in China isn't difficult.

Case in point: in 2011 I went to the police station looking for a friend of my mother back in 1968. I only gave the cop his name, even unsure how he writes his given name due to homonym, where he used to work and approximate age.
Within a minute, they picked him out from the lineup fm the computer.
The next second, they called him up.
After three ring, he answered the call.
It was free, by the way. The streets, neighborhood and even city change frequently but the fundamentals such as police work doesn't.

I read this book while trying hard to silent a nagging doubt: given the fact that the author studied in China and worked there as a journalist, how could she not know the police will find the mate in a heartbeat? Private detective is so unChina.

Thank god the searching in the police station was short because the house was filled with idling smokers. I felt I needed a lung change afterward.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lothe on September 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In 1972 Jan Wong, born in Canada to Chinese parents, was among the first foreigners allowed to enter China to study after the Communist takeover. A fervent Maoist, during her time at Peking University Wong dedicated herself to learning Mandarin, digging ditches, and generally "making revolution."

At the school, Wong had a brief encounter with a young woman named Yin, who told Wong of her dream of going to America--a dream the Communist Party certainly did not endorse. In her revolutionary fervor, Wong informed her teachers of Yin's desire. Shortly thereafter, Yin disappeared.

Wong later left China, became a reporter, and let the past lie. Eventually, however, she found herself unable to ignore her feelings of guilt for ratting out the idealistic young woman decades before--and hence the trip recounted in "A Comrade Lost and Found," in which Wong and her family go to Beijing in hopes of finding Yin. Adrift in a country of a billion people with almost no leads, calling it a daunting task would be an understatement.

Wong's continual theme is the drastic reinvention Beijing has undergone since her days as a student there, from hotels built over the sites of former factories to the rate at which Beijingers change their addresses and phone numbers. Her method of developing this theme, though, is to dive into tangential, almost stream-of-consciousness reminiscences whenever she sees something or meets someone, which can make the narrative hard to follow as it is interrupted by Wong's reflections for pages at a time. She seems compelled to make these observations about everything she encounters on her trip, and while some of this background is interesting, some of it could probably have been cut to streamline the story.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Seth Faison on March 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I found this book hard to put down. One reason is that the premise for Jan Wong's story is deeply inviting: a trip back to Beijing to search for the woman that Wong knew briefly, and betrayed, back when Wong was a radical leftist student in China the 1970s. Another is that she writes with a lively, likable voice, sprinkled with good humor. A third is that Wong's descriptions of contemporary Beijing are vivid and clear. She brings a journalist's eye to everyday observations, and she takes advantage of a network of old friends to show what life is really like in China's capital. Wong was a correspondent in China for the Toronto Globe and Mail and it shows.

Wong is honest and brave about what brought her to this point. She neither exaggerates nor belittles her youthful mistake. Yet it nags at her conscience. It is eye-opening to see the reaction from Chinese acquaintances who learn about her quest, and who themselves do not seem capable of self-exploration or an honest reckoning about past wrongs. Perhaps their crimes were so numerous, or so extreme, that complete denial is necessary for survival.

Wong dragged her husband and two sons along with her for this trip, they often provide comic relief. Wong is a comfortable, unassuming narrator. She grasps at her own anxiety, in a way that made me feel for her. I thought several times as I read: This is a book about middle age. About people who are looking back in time and can't quite fathom how much life has changed, while knowing that there is more change to come.

The real payoff comes when Wong finds her old comrade. I expected some catharsis. I did not expect a sensitive rendering of subtle emotions that criss-cross this territory: misery, relief, longing, wonder, patience, acceptance. Recognition of the familiar. Recognition of the different. It's very rich. I felt grateful to Wong, for letting it all seep out and mingle, for not pushing it. It's a deeply affecting book.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Loves the View VINE VOICE on July 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
There are many biographical narratives about life in the Cultural Revolution. There is a whole genre for survivors who find a way out of the country. Another genre like the now classic, Wild Swans : Three Daughters of China puts the Cultural Revolution in a generational context. Yet another genre represented by Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China gives a then and now report. There is also fiction for each of the categories. I believe this book is unique because it is written by a former true believer, that is, a former persecutor who admits guilt.

The writer arrived in China in 1970, one of the first foreigners to study after/during the Cultural Revolution and participated in the denunciation of a classmate. While her act was small in comparison to what others had done, being on the persecution side, she is able to give clues as to the pshchology and temper of the times. As one survivor in Chinese Lessons observes, everyone claims to be a victim, but "do the math".

The breezy narrative ("Cult Rev") and the travelogue belie the serious content. This it the first volume I've read that compares this history to other mass hysteria movements like the Holocaust, where citizens were proud to inform, to destroy and to generally participate. This is also the first volume I've read that even mentions the psychological fallout, such as the compartmentalization of the persecutors and the damaged self of the persecuted.
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