In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China
By any criterion, a village called Wasteland sounds uninviting. But names can be deceptive. Michael Meyer, who learned Chinese while serving in the Peace Corps, later found Wasteland an ideal setting to learn first-hand the history and culture of Manchuria, the Chinese region bordering Russia, Mongolia, and North Korea. His account of contemporary rural life in northeastern China is eye-opening. Despite economic issues and the harsh climate where seasonal periods are accorded names, readers are introduced to an appealing picture of a region where pollution and urban density seem to belong to another world.
Meyer’s attorney wife was raised in Wasteland. But even the few years since her childhood have seen substantial change. When the state-run Eastern Fortune Rice company set up business, farmers still knew to use traditional knowledge to make their selections according to yield and maturation appropriate for local harvesting.
Meyer’s two closest friends in the village, San Jiu and Auntie Yi, are both pragmatic and philosophical detail the differences since their own youth, recognizing how the pendulum swings between positive and less welcome aspects. Meyer’s linguistic ability enables him to translate the mood of rural China as it has undergone transformation, and his writing is so engaging that a topic not immediately interesting becomes absorbing.