In Manchuria won a 2015 Lowell Thomas Award for Best Travel Book. Judging was done by the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, and announced at the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation’s annual meeting in Las Vegas. From the judge’s citation:
“Michael Meyer immersed himself in an important geographic area rarely studied in depth by Western journalists or anybody else with Western values. Rural China is enormously important within the Chinese empire, and also for the rest of the world as that empire expands its influence. Meyer’s avoidance of the much-documented urban China in favor of understanding the rural populace is refreshing.”
Writing a book is like building a boat, right down to the “launch” that takes both away from you. Every now and then, the boat passes by, and someone says, “Hey, nice boat!” or cracks that it’s a piece of junk — to which the builder thinks, “Well, it still floats!” Regardless, it’s always surprising to see where the thing turns up. Recently, it’s India, where In Manchuria was a “Hot Pick” in the Hindustan Times, and is reviewed in the Times of India, the Financial Express, and the Business Standard. The latter concludes: “In Manchuria becomes a study in transience, solitude and also of a family. Read it for an inroad into one of the many grey regions of history.”
Now that Singapore’s 50th birthday has come and gone, attention at my desk here has turned the 70th anniversary of WWII’s end. Here’s an excerpt on the Japanese settlers abandoned by their military in deep Manchuria, whose children were adopted by Chinese farmers. Here’s (and here, as PDF) an excerpt on the daring liberation of a POW camp in Shenyang. Also on the Wall Street Journal‘s site is this interesting 12-minute documentary on how Manchukuo’s history continues to influence Sino-Japanese relations.
This flattering TLS review is by historian James H. Carter, whose book Creating a Chinese Harbin: Nationalism in an International City, 1916-1932 first inspired me to look just below the surface of contemporary Manchuria, and search for the historical remnants still visible there, even if ignored or forgotten.
The great Oxford historian and author Rana Mitter pulls off quite a feat here – and does In Manchuria a favor – by pairing the book with former Treasury secretary Henry Paulson’s take on China.