Dr. Jeanne Gleich-Anthony
The Rise of Modern Asia
October 1, 2012
A Review of River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze
Peter Hessler wrote a wonderful book when he composed River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. It was a pleasure to read. It gave insight into the way Chinese people live and work in everyday situations. It is very obvious at the start of the book that outsiders are not very common in Fuling and are not readily accepted. Peter Hessler states that people who are foreigners in Fuling are called waiguoren (16). He and his friend Adam that went to China together are referred to by this title throughout the book.
When Peter and Adam first get to Fuling they are the first Americans to live in Fuling for half a century (Hessler 3). When the person who wrote the review about the book River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze said it described a window into a part of China that had been rarely explored in depth was correct. This town was very isolated from outsiders. Peter Hessler was able to capture a unique moment in this book: one of the first exposures to Americans in 50 years. People in the city only knew of Americans what they were taught in school, learned from the media or heard from their older relatives.
Peter Hessler was able to capture this moment and write about it as he experienced it. He took notes about all aspects of life in China. He wrote down things his students would say in their assignments, things he observed and things he learned. Peter Hessler did seem biased about the topic of Communism. Hessler stated that because of his access to a great deal of information that was unavailable to the Chinese he felt he understood the political situation better than the locals (145). I think this put Hessler at a disadvantage. He could not understand why people in China went with the flow, did not oppose anything the government stated as fact. We are so used to freedom in America he could not imagine a life without it.
Peter Hessler did a...
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