Webcast Recap

Podcast (Audio only)

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.

  • “Eating Bitterness is filled with carefully researched and deeply empathetic profiles of individual Chinese workers. . . . Who wouldn’t want to read about ‘The Nowhere Nanny,’ ‘The Landless Landlords,’ and ‘The Big Boss’? These titles suggest a work of fiction. And even though the tales found here come straight from the author’s interviews, reading them proved the same sort of pleasure as making my way through a collection of short stories by a master of that genre.” Jeffrey Wasserstrom, author of China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know.
  • “An untold story and a must-read for anyone who wants to know the real China.” Helen H. Wang, author of The Chinese Dream.
  • “A thorough and insightful examination of the gritty, arduous side of the Chinese economic miracle.” Publishers Weekly
  • “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