BookClub – At The Teahouse Cafe – Essays From The Middle Kingdom

So for this August I have been reading:
At The Teahouse Cafe by Isham Cook
  • Blurb:
It’s 1949 at Revolutionary University. Chinese students spend all their waking hours in political meetings—when they’re not hauling feces from the latrines to the manure fields.
Jump to 2015. Chinese endure endless meetings at the hands of bosses and are required to keep their cellphones on around the clock and pick up at once—or be fined. They live in a technological utopia while enslaved by the same structures of psychological control of over half a century earlier. Underlying the myth of a “New China” are the contemporary Middle Kingdom’s numerous continuities with its past.
In this wide-ranging collection of essays, Cook reaffirms the old adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
  • Why I chose it:
 I was offered a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review – however there were a selection of books to choose from and the reason I chose to read this one is because a) the cover, I know not a sensible way to choose a book and b) the subject matter, I find China and Chinese culture interesting and a selection of essays discussing Chinese culture sounded intriguing.
  • Review:
The essays in the book cover a wide range of subjects and areas e.g. ‘the many faces of Chinese face’, ‘the Chinese Japanese cultural chasm on display at Starbucks’. The essays are informative and interesting and definitely gave me an insight into Chinese culture in a way that I had not come across before – I even googled or went on youtube to look more into a couple of the things discussed e.g. Chinese waitress training.
Some of the observations raised in the essay did make me wonder about the vast differences in culture and made me think about my reactions to the subject matter, and whether the ideas made me feel uncomfortable because I have a very western background.
This book took me a lot longer than usual to finish and its because of the writing style of the author. Although the ideas were interesting the author has almost a melancholy or jaded feel to his writing.
All in all interesting essays – with some feeling slightly controversial but definitely thought provoking.


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