A couple months ago I mentioned my involvement in a new anthology of writing from China entitled Unsavory Elements: Stories of foreigners on the loose in China. Well, the early reviews are in — mostly from publications in Shanghai — and they’ve been largely positive.

Editor Tom Carter and publisher Graham Earnshaw were able to corral an impressive corps of 27 contributors, including Peter Hessler, Simon Winchester, Jonathan Watts, Alan Paul, Audra Ang and Michael Meyer.

City Weekend wrote that Unsavory Elements “will hit close to home for any foreigner who’s lived in China.” Shanghaiist gave the book “a solid B+.” And That’s Shanghai calls it “eminently dip-into-able, informative and enjoyable collection.”

Mercifully, each reviewer had nice things to say about my offering, which hopefully bodes well for my forthcoming book (due out sometime next year from Oneworld Publications), from which my Unsavory Elements chapter is loosely adapted.

City Weekend:

Of all Unsavory Elements’ stories, 27 of which were commissioned expressly for this book, Kay Bratt’s and Dan Washburn’s are the most touching. … Washburn, the founder of Shanghaiist, is now Asia Society’s Managing Editor; in “Every Thousand Years,” he goes to Qixin, Guizhou, “perhaps the poorest village in the poorest province in China,” to meet the sweet, elderly parents of golfer Zhou Xunshu, whom he’s been following for a year.


Dan Washburn’s account of a trip to poverty stricken rural Guizhou to meet the family of a golfer he was profiling is poignant and well observed. Dan, who founded this website, and in who’s shadow we his successors always remain, is an annoyingly accomplished writer.

That’s Shanghai:

Rather than being ‘on the loose,’ many of these writers seem to be gently observing, and it is this that generally yields results when it comes to gaining insight into a culture. Take Dan Washburn’s journey into the winter hills of Guizhou and the humble family of a Chinese professional golfer he was aiming to write a book on. It is a charming, curious tale, from their utter ignorance of what golf is, to a hard-drinking yet unfailingly hospitable brother, and made all the warmer by the culminating revelation that they all have absolutely no idea what Washburn is doing in their home.

Thanks to all who have read and reviewed the book. And for those who would like to pick up a copy, check out the Earnshaw Books website for details. It’s currently only available in Asia, I believe, and is set to make its Amazon bow sometime in July. (Also, I hear the initial printing sold out, so be patient.)

1. Of course, they are contractually obligated to like everything I do.