by Mark Salzman
After visiting a different country (especially one outside of the Americas or Western Europe) it's often difficult to describe one's experiences to friends and family. Maybe this is because the shared base of assumptions and experiences hinders our ability to describe cultures that have a completely different set of premises. In any case, something that I find valuable is a good description of another culture -- one that transcends these difficulties. The Poisonwood Bible is a good example, and this book is another.
Iron and Silk is a collection of anecdotes from a couple of years that Salzman spent teaching English in the backwater city of Changsha, China. These anecdotes illustrate the difficulty that Chinese and Westerners often have understand each other, the joy of discovering a different culture, the repercussions of the Cultural Revolution, and many other points. I liked this book a lot, although I found the pacing a little hard to deal with; Salzman has stacked the anecdotes so heavily on the side of his martial arts adventures that it's hard to see how he could have been spending much time teaching or doing anything else.
copyright © 2002 John Regehr