River Town Book Review

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Book Review 1 Peter Hessler’s River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze is a very interesting book. It doesn’t focus on the same major parts of China that you would see focused on in a textbook on the same topic. Most textbooks and classes about this revolutionary time in Chinese history focus on big cities and well known political leaders. River Town, however, concentrates on a small city in the Sichuan province called Fuling. Fuling is located in the Yangtze River valley, far from the major political cities in China. This provides a unique, realistic look at China as it changes shape. I agree with the statement that this book has provided a window into a part of China that has rarely been explored in depth. Every textbook on this part of Chinese history will tell about the effects on the leaders of the country, what they had to do, China’s government as a whole, its economy, etc. The effect of this period on the everyday Chinese is often overlooked. Hessler gives a great insight on how the “middle class” felt during this period. He tells his first hand story about teaching and learning from the people of Fuling. Hessler describes how the students he was teaching were typically the first people in their family who could read, and part of a transitional generation. This generation had grown up with China’s changes. Hessler talks about the presence of communist propaganda in China during his visit. He talks about how private schools would come to recruit students to become teachers. A man named Mr. Wong came to recruit students. He was very distinguished and outgoing about being a member of the communist party and he was particularly interested in hiring other communist party members. He said that working at his school paid $100 per month, which was twice as much as they would make in the villages. His students later found out that this job being
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