In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China

Author(s): Michael Meyer


In the tradition of In Patagonia and Great Plains, Michael Meyer's In Manchuria is a scintillating combination of memoir, contemporary reporting, and historical research, presenting a unique profile of China's legendary northeast territory. For three years, Meyer rented a home in the rice-farming community of Wasteland, hometown to his wife's family. Their personal saga mirrors the tremendous change most of rural China is undergoing, in the form of a privately held rice company that has built new roads, introduced organic farming, and constructed high-rise apartments into which farmers can move in exchange for their land rights. Once a commune, Wasteland is now a company town, a phenomenon happening across China that Meyer documents for the first time; indeed, not since Pearl Buck wrote The Good Earth has anyone brought rural China to life as Meyer has here. Amplifying the story of family and Wasteland, Meyer takes us on a journey across Manchuria's past, a history that explains much about contemporary China--from the fall of the last emperor to Japanese occupation and Communist victory.
Through vivid local characters, Meyer illuminates the remnants of the imperial Willow Palisade, Russian and Japanese colonial cities and railways, and the POW camp into which a young American sergeant parachuted to free survivors of the Bataan Death March. In Manchuria is a rich and original chronicle of contemporary China and its people.


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A vivid and insightful portrait of China today, as featured on NPR's This American Life, from the acclaimed author of The Last Days of Old Beijing.

Michael Meyer has a more refined sense of history and poetry, and with his new book In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China, he seizes the opportunity to dig beneath the region's gritty surfaces ... In Manchuria is the second book by Mr. Meyer, whose work has also appeared in magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times. His first was The Last Days of Old Beijing a well-received portrait of daily life in an ancient section of the city that is about to be razed in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics ... Mr. Meyer also has a knack for noticing amusingly incongruous details, and he employs that talent to full effect to convey the contradictions of contemporary China. New York Times Meyer writes from the appealing perspective of an American outsider who can tell a Chinese story from the inside, as it were, by plunging into the private lives of people he came to know intimately ... As an historian, and especially as a guide to Chinese museums, memorials, and monuments, Meyer is superb ... [He] is not only a connoisseur of patriotic monuments, but also a wonderful explorer of the relics of a past that is rubbed out, overlooked, or largely forgotten. -- Ian Buruma New York Review of Books In Manchuria is a bet that the desolate plains of northeast China will be more interesting to him and his readers than they are to most Chinese, and even to most residents of Manchuria. And Meyer wins that bet, offering readers a richly detailed, highly readable, and utterly enjoyable history of Manchuria (and Wasteland). Los Angeles Review of Books A fine book to lose yourself in on a winter's night ... Meyer is a fine descriptive writer ... he sketches his small cast of characters with simple grace ... [His] memoir is most rewarding if read as a story about searching, about living, about exploring, in which the act of discovery is incidental. Wall Street Journal Michael Meyer combines an informative history of China's northeast region with a charming and at times sentimental account of the lives of the inhabitants of a rice-farming community that is about to become a company town. Minneapolis Star Tribune Michael Meyer's In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China is a beautifully written blend of memoir, travel account, history and social commentary... an engaging account of rural China poised on the brink of change. Shelf Awareness A satisfying, elegant personal journey in China's fabled Northeast ... A work of enormous heart as well as research. -- starred review Kirkus This wonderfully written book is an intriguing blend of immersion journalism, history and a cross-cultural romance. Michael Meyer threw himself into China's fast-disappearing village culture that foreigners virtually never get to see. He has brought it to life with zest, humor and insatiable curiosity, in one of the most unusual and satisfying works on China I've read. Fittingly for a book centered on a farm, In Manchuria is a feast. -- Adam Hochschild, author of KING LEOPOLD'S GHOST and TO END ALL WARS With In Manchuria, Michael Meyer has resurrected what was once a great literary tradition of books about the life and land of rural China. Over the past twenty years, writers have focused on the boom of urban China--overlooking the fact that today most Chinese still have ties to the countryside. Meyer's heartfelt book helps us remember. He tracks the lives of farmers in the vast northeast, and their uncertain transition to corporate agriculture, in a book as rich and deep as the earth of this storied region. -- Peter Hessler, author of RIVER TOWN and ORACLE BONES Michael Meyer's exhilarating account of life on a Chinese rice farm, In Manchuria, takes a completely fresh look at contemporary China. A brilliant (and witty) reporter and writer, Meyer notices everything and deftly threads history, politics, people, and the rich textures of daily life in the country's remote Northeast into a drama of change and loss, as Eastern Fortune Rice, a large government-sponsored business, turns a quiet village of farmers into a 'modern' company town. -- Jean Strouse, author of MORGAN: AMERICAN FINANCIER and ALICE JAMES Michael Meyer takes a faraway village and creates from it a whole world. In Manchuria is part memoir, part portrait of a fascinating and important place, and a successor to Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia. With an emotional understanding ignited by love and sharpened through long connection, Meyer combines incredible stories from Manchuria's past with here-and-now reporting, and in doing so, captures the brilliant tangle that is the new China. -- Amy Wilentz, author of FAREWELL, FRED VOODOO and THE RAINY SEASON Delightful character sketches and casual but sharp-eyed reporting ... Meyer's entertaining mix of memoir, travelogue, and sociology yields a rich, insightful view of China in transition. Publishers Weekly Meyer's book is a touching mixture of personal reminiscence and a primer on the history of one of China's significant regions ... Meyer captures this fast-changing world with affection, but without sentimentality. The Telegraph

Michael Meyer first went to China in 1995 with the Peace Corps. The winner of a Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing, Meyer has also won a Whiting Writers' Award for nonfiction and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His stories have appeared in the New York Times, Time, Smithsonian, Sports Illustrated, Slate, the Financial Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune. He is the author of The Last Days of Old Beijing, which became a bestseller in China, and he divides his time between Pittsburgh and Singapore.

General Fields

  • : 9781620402887
  • : Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • : Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • : May 2016
  • : 210mm X 140mm
  • : United States
  • : May 2016
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : 384
  • : 951.80612
  • : Paperback
  • : Michael Meyer
  • : One 16-page color insert, 3 maps, black & white illustrations throughout