Michael Meyer went to China in 1995 as one of its first Peace Corps volunteers. As the author of the acclaimed The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed, he received a Whiting Writers’ Award for nonfiction, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His second book, In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China won a Lowell Thomas Award for Best Travel Book from the Society of American Travel Writers. Meyer’s stories have appeared in the New York Times, Time, Smithsonian, Sports Illustrated, Slate, the Financial Times, Foreign Policy, Architectural Record, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and on National Public Radio’s This American Life. He is a member of the National Committee on United States-China Relations’ Public Intellectuals Program, a recipient of a 2017 National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar fellowship, and an Associate Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, where he teaches nonfiction writing. His new memoir The Road to Sleeping Dragon: Learning China from the Ground Upis the last book in a China trilogy that spans the past twenty years.
About the Book
In 1995, at the age of twenty-three, Michael Meyer joined the Peace Corps and, after rejecting offers to go to seven other countries, was sent to a tiny town in Sichuan. Knowing nothing about China, or even how to use chopsticks, Meyer wrote Chinese words up and down his arms so he could hold conversations, and, per a Communist dean’s orders, jumped into teaching his students about the Enlightenment, the stock market, and Beatles lyrics. Soon he realized his Chinese counterparts were just as bewildered by the country’s changes as he was. With humor and insight, Meyer puts readers in his novice shoes, winding across the length and breadth of his adopted country -- from a terrifying bus attack on arrival, to remote Xinjiang and Tibet, and his future wife's Manchurian family, and into efforts to protect China's heritage at places like "Sleeping Dragon," the world's largest panda preserve.
In the last book of his China trilogy, Meyer tells a story both deeply personal and universal, as he gains greater – if never complete – assurance, capturing what it feels like to learn a language, culture and history from the ground up. Meyerwill recount his 20-year journey via photographs, as well as talking about the challenges of reporting from China and how a freelance writer can fund and produce books that reach a wide audience.
This event is part of the 2018-2019 Policy and Society in Contemporary China Lecture Series, cosponsored by the China Center for Social Policy and Weatherhead East Asian Institute, and supported by CSSW and GSAPP.