A review essay for the Los Angeles Review of Books on the similarities between the historical experience of the rural white working poor in the United States and a new generation of migrant workers in China’s cities.
Reading Mr. Vance while living in Beijing, it is not hard to see how some of his descriptions of working class America — and the fates of those Americans over the 20th century— ping post-millennium echoes in present day China. Mr. Vance’s simple, but inspiring, description of his own life story would be familiar to millions of young men and women in this country for whom it can also be said:
Two generations ago, my grandparents were dirt-poor and in love. They got married and moved north in the hope of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. Their grandchild (me) graduated from one of the finest educational institutions in the world. That’s the short version.