A Review of: Iron & Silk

Matt | Books: Iron & Silk | Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

Here I will review a China book every two weeks. A lot of these, including Mark Salzman’s, Iron & Silk, I have read before, but in the spirit of this blog, I have decided to reread a few and to write a few thoughts about them. I think it’s fitting to start with Iron & Silk as this was the first book on China I read in preparation to come. It was recommend as a must read, along with Peter Hessler’s, River Town, which I will review shortly. Now, Iron & Silk is a bit dated as it recounts his experiences back in 1982-84, but it gives a great description of what live was like then.

As a teacher in China now, it is amazing how much life has changed in only 20 years. I remember reading a part of the book, where Mark was trying desperately to get a cup of coffee after two years of only green tea and having to outsmart the cunning Hunan vendor, the whole time I was devouring my Starbucks coffee of the day and staring at the other foreigners on their laptops using their Wi-Fi and thinking how much has changed. Whenever I think things are awkward or unnecessarily complicated here, which they often seem to be, I think back to how it was 20 years ago and I give thanks to the trail blazers like Mark Salzman.


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