China in One Village

China in One Village

How does rural China recall the past decades of change? One answer is the pathbreaking 2010 book by Liang Hong, China in Liang Village (中国在梁庄), which recounts the history of Liang’s native town, a village near Zhengzhou in central Henan province. 

This book went on to sell hundreds of thousands, spawn imitators, and capped a debate about the human cost of China’s rapid development. She describes how traditional elites were destroyed after 1949, the effect of famines, and loss of family ties. 

Liang’s book is now translated into English as China in One Village. In this short review for The New York Times, I discuss the book, the translation, and its significance. 

This highly readable book is highly relevant to anyone trying to understand the deep structure of Chinese society. It’s also a good example of how narrative (or literary) non-fiction in China can sometimes discuss sensitive topics that is banned in China’s mainstream and social media.

For educators, I think it would be a great book for undergrads, in a survey course of contemporary China, Chinese society, or a journalism/writing course on global non-fiction.

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