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Eating Bitterness: Stories from the Front Lines of China's Great Urban Migration Hardcover – March 19, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition; 1st Printing edition (March 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520266501
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520266506
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,144,691 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“What Loyalka finds is fascinating. . . . Details . . . make the book read like an ethnography, with a lot of first-hand discovery, and give it lasting power as a historical record of the biggest, fastest urbanization in human history.”
(April Rabkin San Francisco Chronicle 2012-04-08)

“A vivid portrait of the migrant experience in the burgeoning western Chinese city of Xi'an. . . . An insightful look at the hard lives of real people caught in a cultural transition.”
(Kirkus Reviews 2012-02-01)

“A thorough and insightful examination of the gritty, arduous side of the Chinese economic miracle.”
(Publishers Weekly 2012-01-30)

“One of the first books to examine the complexities of rural-to-urban migration through the life stories of individuals.”
(Maura Elizabeth Cunningham Pacific Standard 2012-04-20)

“Eating Bitterness sheds light on another dimension of the vast spectrum of Chinese society and is a valuable addition to the nonfiction literature on China.”
(Hilton Yip Asian Review Of Books 2012-04-29)

“The book is a welcome complement to the many monographs and economic studies that have charted China's economic progress. . . . Highly recommended.”
(F. Ng Choice 2012-10-01) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

"Eating Bitterness is filled with carefully researched and deeply empathetic profiles of individual Chinese workers. It's also a meticulously crafted book, which shows through even in details such as the titles given to chapters. Who wouldn't want to read about 'The Nowhere Nanny,' 'The Landless Landlords,' and 'The Big Boss'? These titles suggest a work of fiction. And even though the tales found here come straight from the author's interviews, reading them proved the same sort of pleasure as making my way through a collection of short stories by a master of that genre."—Jeffrey Wasserstrom, author of China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know.

"Michelle Dammon Loyalka’s Eating Bitterness tells the story of those who are at the bottom of Chinese society, their hopes, struggles, and above all, their perseverance in enduring hardship in life. It’s an untold story and a must-read for anyone who wants to know the real China."—Helen H. Wang, author of The Chinese Dream.



"The great migration in rural China could be the most significant population shift today, influencing business practices, consumer habits, and cultural expectations around the world. Michelle Loyalka takes us behind the stunning demographics into the hearts and minds of the urban pioneers with unforgettable portraits of courage and despair. Her remarkable insight and candor make an indelible impression, erasing any distance between readers and subjects."—Mary Kay Blakely, author of American Mom: Motherhood, Politics, and Humble Pie.

More About the Author

Michelle Dammon Loyalka is an award winning journalist who has lived in China since 1997. Her new book, Eating Bitterness: Stories from the Front Lines of China's Great Urban Migration (University of California Press), provides an insider's look at the pain, self-sacrifice and determination of the people underlying China's dramatic economic turnaround. She has spoken on issues related to China's migration and urbanization at venues including the United Nations, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the National Committee on US-China Relations.

She is a contributor to the soon-to-be released book of essays, Chinese Characters: Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land. Her work on the psychological repercussions of China's rapid development has earned her both an Overseas Press Club scholarship and the O.O. McIntyre Fellowship. Ms. Loyalka compiled and edited a daily feature section for BusinessWeek Online from China for six years. She has freelanced for publications including The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Inc., Fast Company and the San Francisco Business Times. In China she has published essays in local newspapers, appeared on a variety of talk shows and co-hosted a call-in radio program in Mandarin.

In addition, Ms. Loyalka has extensive business experience in China in both education and technology. She served on the board of directors of the Concord Educational Network in Zhuhai, worked as a department head at Calikai Software in Xi'an, and launched a business consulting company in Xi'an's booming new High Tech Development Zone. She holds a master's degree from the Missouri School of Journalism and currently lives in Beijing.

Customer Reviews

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My book club decided they wanted to read this book and the 20 women loved it!
Bonnie meinze
Author Michelle Dammon Loyalka masterfully explores the complex social forces at work in Chinese society in the face of such broad-scale urban migration.
casia
The book has the unusual quality of being funny, sad, inspiring, and insightful all at the same time.
wutang

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By candyw49 on February 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is about the great migration of poor people into the cities of China. Eating bitterness meant to me "suck it up and endure" and these are real heroes. This is a objective study of eight people from all different walks of life---nanny, knife sharpener, businesswoman. Yet the author wrote very objectively in the third person. I am a very picky reader and I loved the stories. The endurance and culture is all about current China. It is a real mix of the bizarre as it is today. I was rooting for these people all the way. If you love readiing, fiction, biographies, economics or social studies you will adore this book. You can catch an update of the economics of these people in the New York Times by the same author, Michelle Dammon Loyalka. Check out that article too.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By wutang on May 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Once you've started reading "Eating Bitterness", you won't be able to put it down. The writing is excellent, the characters are colorful, and their stories are so jarring in comparison to typical American life. If you think your life is hard, just wait till you read about the knife sharpener and the fruit sellers! The book has the unusual quality of being funny, sad, inspiring, and insightful all at the same time. Moreover, I think "Eating Bitterness" really captures something very positive about Chinese people that isn't broadcast enough in Western media -- namely, the impossible capacity of the Chinese for enduring hardship. A fantastic read!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By casia on April 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
One of the best books I've read in awhile. With beautiful, engaging prose, Eating Bitterness captures the human side of the massive migration trend happening across China. The book is made up of eight provocative individual narratives of peasants who moved to Xian to take up varied menial jobs. Their stories offer insights into the realities of day-to-day life for millions of Chinese people beyond the factory-worker stereotype featured in most western news. Author Michelle Dammon Loyalka masterfully explores the complex social forces at work in Chinese society in the face of such broad-scale urban migration. She accomplishes this while refraining from the typical critiques on Chinese politics, instead offering readers an unbiased picture of the human side of china's development and growth, and its positive and negative consequences on the lives of the millions of migrants who are the engine of that growth.

The 8 individuals featured inspired me with their hope, their hard-working perseverance, and their ability endure to tremendous difficulty in hopes of building a better life for themselves and their children. Similar development-fueled migration patterns are common in a number countries across the globe, so this book should have broad-scale appeal.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Susan J. Petrina on June 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this book because I have been working in China and wanted to understand what I was experiencing better. After looking at a lot of the non-fiction literature I chose this book, among others. It was captivating and the stories of the people have stayed with me. Well worth reading regardless just for the sake of reading
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sister Madly on April 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Eating Bitterness is a moving compilation of just a few stories that depict what life is like for millions of migrant workers in China today. For those born in rural China, the only way out comes in one of two choices: education and relocation to an urban area, and if you really want to succeed, it had better be both. In this book, we see the same story several times over, a rural peasant attempting to forge ahead in the great urban jungle, enduring hardship after hardship in the pursuit of a better life. For some, such as the Veggie Vendors of chapter one and the Nowhere Nanny of chapter six, this chiku is something they exhibit in order to give their children a better chance - working long hours and living well below their means to save and scrounge up funds for schooling. And, especially in the Nowhere Nanny's case, forsaking a real relationship with her children in order to provide for them. For others, attaining wealth, a huge concern for today's Chinese, is simply seen as the only course to take - money is the means to being successful and happy. But for some - like the Impenetrable Knife Sharpener and the Teenage Beauty Queens - this kind of stability and success will always be out of reach in a world that is developing too quickly for them to catch up. However, with the promise of a better life, these people try to make a living the only way they know how, even if it means living in rooms only just large enough to sleep in, and eating as plainly and cheaply as possible.

Yet, Michelle Dammon Loyalka points out that even for those migrants who have found the wealth they sought, they still find themselves caught in a strange zone between rural and urban life. The Landless Landlords are a good example of this problem.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Barbara on January 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Our book club composed of teachers red this book and found it to be very informative and very interestig. One of us has taught in China and praised the validity of this writing. The author's interpretations of her interviews were very down to earth and I really felt like I got to know these people of China.
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