China Through My Window Review

China Through My Window
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China Through My Window ReviewThis remarkable memoir magically transports the reader to a vivid, personal experience of China as experienced through the eyes of an American woman who taught English at a Chinese university for two years in the late 1970's. Through Woronov's writing, the reader vicariously experiences what it was like to be the first "Foreign Worker" employed in Hangzhou in thirty years. The title of the book refers not only to the window of Woronov's room, from which she descriptively portrays the changing seasons across the picturesque lake in Hangzhou, but it also refers to her particular viewpoint as an American visiting a particular location in China during a remarkable period of history. As soon as Woronov arrived, she had to grope her way through the maze of differing cultural expectations and communication gaps. For example, she learned that "no" does not always mean "no"(as when the offer of tea is politely declined) and that "maybe" does not necessarily mean "yes" (as when a person says "maybe" to an impossible request). As Woronov successfully negotiates through each challenge of culture and communication, the reader gains a new depth of understanding and appreciation of Chinese people and the nuances of its culture. With insight that rivals the sophistication of a cultural anthropologist, Woronov describes in luscious detail her vivid impressions of the seasons, culture, work conditons, personalities and personal histories of strangers she barely met along with others she grew to love deeply during her sojourn. Reading Woronov's descriptions of conversations, smells, foods, weddings, living conditions, and other aspects of life, the reader is invited to participate in her experience. For Woronov, the experience was full of contrast and ambiguity. For example, she experienced deep personal lonliness and ambivalence about being so far from home, yet this is contrasted against the deeply caring (non-sexual) relationships she developed with her students and colleagues. Strangers sometimes sought out this American woman because they wanted to share intimate secrets of their lives with someone from another culture, and yet this contrasts distinctively with the stiff, formal relations which were maintained by others who viewed her merely as an outsider. At the end of her stay, Wornov toured across China, visiting her students in their homes dispersed in distant places, so the reader is also treated to a travelogue of sights across the country complete with a map to track her journey. I don't think a person could go wrong in buying and reading this book. Whether you are an armchair traveler, a student of history, or even perhaps contemplating your own personal encounter with the Middle Kingdom, you will find Woronov's experience and the people you meet through Woronov's insightful "window" to be deeply touching and unforgettable.China Through My Window Overview

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