Eating Bitterness: Stories from the Front Lines of China’s Great Urban Migration (Hardcover)
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Every year over 200 million peasants flock to China’s urban centers, providing a profusion of cheap labor that helps fuel the country’s staggering economic growth. Award-winning journalist Michelle Dammon Loyalka follows the trials and triumphs of eight such migrants—including a vegetable vendor, an itinerant knife sharpener, a free-spirited recycler, and a cash-strapped mother—offering an inside look at the pain, self-sacrifice, and uncertainty underlying China’s dramatic national transformation. At the heart of the book lies each person’s ability to “eat bitterness”—a term that roughly means to endure hardships, overcome difficulties, and forge ahead. These stories illustrate why China continues to advance, even as the rest of the world remains embroiled in financial turmoil. At the same time, Eating Bitterness demonstrates how dealing with the issues facing this class of people constitutes China’s most pressing domestic challenge.
About the Author
Michelle Dammon Loyalka has lived in China for 13 years, during which time she has written a language-learning textbook, launched a business consulting company, co-hosted a radio talk show in Mandarin, and headed the educational products division of a Chinese software company. A freelance journalist and editor, Loyalka holds a master’s degree from the Missouri School of Journalism and currently lives in Beijing.
“What Loyalka finds is fascinating. . . . Details . . . make the book read like an ethnography, with a lot of first-hand discovery, and give it lasting power as a historical record of the biggest, fastest urbanization in human history.”
— April Rabkin
“A vivid portrait of the migrant experience in the burgeoning western Chinese city of Xi'an. . . . An insightful look at the hard lives of real people caught in a cultural transition.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“A thorough and insightful examination of the gritty, arduous side of the Chinese economic miracle.”
— Publishers Weekly
“One of the first books to examine the complexities of rural-to-urban migration through the life stories of individuals.”
— Maura Elizabeth Cunningham
“Eating Bitterness sheds light on another dimension of the vast spectrum of Chinese society and is a valuable addition to the nonfiction literature on China.”
— Hilton Yip
"Extremely readable, with each portrait of a migrant’s life qualifying as a literary short story."
— Kimiko Suda
“The book is a welcome complement to the many monographs and economic studies that have charted China's economic progress. . . . Highly recommended.”
— F. Ng
"Loyalka's intimate portraits are able to provide new insight into the daily lives of the workers whose stories might otherwise seem too small and too humble to represent the Chinese economic juggernaut."
— May-Lee Chai