Author : Michael Meyer
Publisher: Walker & Company, Inc.
www.walkerbooks.com ISBN: 978-0-8027-1652-1
Many visitors are offered the opportunity to visit a Hutong (lanes) on their trip to China when they visit the city of Beijing. This book written by a 1995 Peace Corp volunteer that chose to remain and teach students English while he lived in a Hutong in Beijing, captures the spirit of the times during the transition to modern housing. In addition, Michael Meyer provides historical background about the creation of the Hutong’s and the difficult process by which they were torn down.
One point the author makes is shown by the photo taken in a Beijing, China hutong is that many people lost their sense of community when they were forced to move into the modern apartments.
This memoir helps explain how many of the inhabitants in Beijing came to the city from surrounding areas in order to make their living. Some were farmers who became restaurant owners. Some were truck drivers. While one by one, Michael Meyer recalls his friendship with many of the residents during his stay in China, the reader begins to have a better understanding of Chinese life before the rise to Communism and in current times.
This photograph shows one of the small businesses in a hutong in Bejing, China, where the groceries were sold indoors and out and purchased locally by families.
The tales of student life also help show how students learned English and how their English lessons compared to their Chinese lessons and to American textbooks. This memoir also deals with subject like how Communist Party members saw the future, how teachers gained their license, how medics dealt with birth control, and how people arrange for food, take showers, dealt with the police and many other situations that arrive out of day-to-day life.
Another point made by the author is how limited the space, including many families living together and how shared resources were offered in the hutong are shown in the photograph taken from our host's kitchen in Beijing, China.