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Street of Eternal Happiness: Big City Dreams…

Street of Eternal Happiness: Big City Dreams Along a Shanghai Road

by Rob Schmitz

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book is an examination of a specific neighborhood in Shanghai, using the residents, the history, and the author's day to day life to paint a broader picture of China throughout the course of the last 70 years. With the access and freedom granted a foreign journalist, Schmitz is able to get candid and personal stories from his neighbors and their associates. This individual tales serve to add a distinct and identifiable human element to the grand sweep of modern Chinese history. The narratives memories of the interviewees is the strength of the book as is Schmitz's curiosity as it opens several doors and provides a much more personable work. Schmitz also does a decent job staying as objective as possible and there was little attempt to use the less than ideal history of the figures in the book to satisfy pre-existing notions about China or conform to an agenda. That being said, despite Schmitz's impressive language skills, the books is still written the eyes of a Western journalist. This is a strength as mentioned previously but can also be seen as an impediment as the lack of personal connection to the people, the land, and the history can detach the writer from a clear direction or goal.

This is a strong book that does a good job illustrating the modern history of China through the life stories of some of its citizens. Compelling, confusing, frustrating, and more, the book is entertaining but perhaps not as focused or informative as it set out to be. ( )
  loafhunter13 | May 30, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book shows us modern China in a way that few people ever experience. Schmitz writes of his personal experience as a Chinese resident and of the beauty of old Shanghai and how the modernization of China is destroying entire neighborhoods and communities that have existed for hundreds of years. Schmitz also provides effective understanding of how the Cultural Revolution effects China even today and how issues such as the One Child Policy have effected Chinese society. Overll an excellent read ( )
  arelenriel | May 14, 2017 |
Fascinating and sobering account of modern China as seen through the eyes of some of its residents. Schmitz is an intelligent, sympathetic observer who does his best to let his neighbors speak for themselves even as he explicates the illogic, doublespeak and corruption that are part of dealing with life under Chinese Communism. Though the characters are mostly optimistic about their futures, I was struck over and over again by how much damage Mao and his subordinates did to their citizens, whether through overtly repressive polices and actions, such as the Cultural Revolution, or through more subtle conditioning. (The story of one woman who keeps getting suckered by con men is particularly disturbing; her gullible behavior is a direct result of her being taught to respect authority instead of thinking for herself.) Mostly, I was left thankful that my mother's family left the mainland when it did. ( )
  bostonian71 | Feb 24, 2017 |
I found this interesting but not gripping by any means. The author is a Minnesotan who is a NPR Marketplace journalist. He writes about the everyday people who live on his street -- flower vendor, sandwich cafe owner, street food guy selling out of his house etc. You learn the life long histories of these contemporary 21c. Chinese. Some pretty staggering stories and some bleak futures. Count yourself lucky to be born a U.S. citizen and to live in the Midwest.
  splinfo | Feb 8, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a fascinating look at the new China- the China that has embraced capitalism, celebrates youth, with a free-wheeling, sometimes free-for-all economy. Schmitz examines the ways in which the new Chinese economy is affecting the population by interviewing the people who live along a street in Shanghai (whose name roughly translates to "eternal happiness.") The street, in the former French Concession area of Shanghai, has long been a desirable location. It still bears the architectural signs of French colonialism, but is also dotted with sleek glass skyscrapers. The residents of the street are an interesting bunch. There is a flower shop owner who sacrificed everything to try and make a better future in Shanghai, only to have those dreams shattered by her lack of residency permits. There is a young entrepreneur trying to make a go of new style of sandwich shop. There is a couple desperately trying to hold on to their old residence on the street, even though the government is determined to claim it and sell the land. There is an easily duped grandmother, who is regularly taken in by economic and religious charlatans. Schmitz tells their stories, and the stories of the city more broadly, with insight and sensitivity. He is aided by the fact that he lives in Shanghai, and he is fluent in Mandarin. Schmitz discusses the fundamental generation gap that affects twenty-first century China. The younger generation did not live through the Cultural Revolution. The older generation did. The scars and experiences of the older generation are anathema to millennials. For anyone who wants to know more about life in China's fast-growing cities, this is an interesting and well-presented book. ( )
  lahochstetler | Oct 20, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553418084, Hardcover)

An unforgettable portrait of individuals who hope, struggle, and grow along a single street cutting through the heart of China’s most exhilarating metropolis, from one of the most acclaimed broadcast journalists reporting on China today.
Modern Shanghai: a global city in the midst of a renaissance, where dreamers arrive each day to partake in a mad torrent of capital, ideas, and opportunity. Marketplace’s Rob Schmitz is one of them. He immerses himself in his neighborhood, forging deep relationships with ordinary people who see in the city’s sleek skyline a brighter future, and a chance to rewrite their destinies. There’s Zhao, whose path from factory floor to shopkeeper is sidetracked by her desperate measures to ensure a better future for her sons. Down the street lives Auntie Fu, a fervent capitalist forever trying to improve herself with religion and get-rich-quick schemes while keeping her skeptical husband at bay. Up a flight of stairs, musician and café owner CK sets up shop to attract young dreamers like himself, but learns he’s searching for something more. As Schmitz becomes more involved in their lives, he makes surprising discoveries which untangle the complexities of modern China: A mysterious box of letters that serve as a portal to a family’s – and country’s – dark past, and an abandoned neighborhood where fates have been violently altered by unchecked power and greed.
A tale of 21st century China, Street of Eternal Happiness profiles China’s distinct generations through multifaceted characters who illuminate an enlightening, humorous, and at times heartrending journey along the winding road to the Chinese Dream. Each story adds another layer of humanity and texture to modern China, a tapestry also woven with Schmitz’s insight as a foreign correspondent. The result is an intimate and surprising portrait that dispenses with the tired stereotypes of a country we think we know, immersing us instead in the vivid stories of the people who make up one of the world’s most captivating cities.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 12 Feb 2016 15:17:45 -0500)

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