Booklist Gives a Starred Review to OTHER RIVERS by Peter Hessler

SS 2024-05-08 at 11.04.09 AM

Returning to Sichuan Province after a long absence, an American journalism teacher experiences heightened surveillance, pandemic lockdowns, and other challenges in a changing China. In River Town (2001), Hessler described teaching English and learning Chinese in the remote town of Fuling. Back after 20 years, much has changed. Fuling is partially underwater due to the Three Gorges Dam. His students at Chengdu Experimental School are more sophisticated (and taller, thanks to better nutrition), but under ever-greater pressure to get ahead. Political sensitivities remain as bewildering as ever, but now there are cameras everywhere. Sent to a local elementary school, the author’s children struggle to learn Mandarin, while their parents struggle to keep up with the school’s highly active, if frequently passive aggressive WeChat group. COVID-19 upends everything, but it also gives Hessler a unique opportunity to observe modern Chinese society under stress. Pulled between the need to maintain his tenuous teaching position and the desire to work a once-in-a-lifetime story, Hessler heads to Wuhan, the pandemic’s epicenter. Throughout, Hessler shares the words of his students—variously curious, skeptical, tired, and wise—in what is, at heart, a meditation on teaching and learning from one’s students.

Other Rivers: A Chinese Education by Peter Hessler will be published in the English language by Penguin Press in North America in July 2024 and by Atlantic Books in the UK and ANZ, with translation editions forthcoming as well.

Peter Hessler is a staff writer at the New Yorker, where he served as Beijing correspondent from 2000-2007 and Cairo correspondent from 2011-2016. He is also a contributing writer for National Geographic. He is the author of River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, which won the Kiriyama Book Prize, Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present, which was New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the National Book Award, Country Driving: A Journey through China from Farm to Factory, Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West, and The Buried: An Archaeology of the Egyptian Revolution. He won the 2008 National Magazine Award for excellence in reporting, and he was named a MacArthur fellow in 2011.