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A Village with My Name

A Family History of China’s Opening to the World

A Village with My Name

A Family History of China’s Opening to the World

When journalist Scott Tong moved to Shanghai, his assignment was to start the first full-time China bureau for “Marketplace,” the daily business and economics program on public radio stations across the United States. But for Tong the move became much more—it offered the opportunity to reconnect with members of his extended family who had remained in China after his parents fled the communists six decades prior. By uncovering the stories of his family’s history, Tong discovered a new way to understand the defining moments of modern China and its long, interrupted quest to go global.
A Village with My Name offers a unique perspective on the transitions in China through the eyes of regular people who have witnessed such epochal events as the toppling of the Qing monarchy, Japan’s occupation during World War II, exile of political prisoners to forced labor camps, mass death and famine during the Great Leap Forward, market reforms under Deng Xiaoping, and the dawn of the One Child Policy. Tong’s story focuses on five members of his family, who each offer a specific window on a changing country: a rare American-educated girl born in the closing days of the Qing Dynasty, a pioneer exchange student, an abandoned toddler from World War II who later rides the wave of China’s global export boom, a young professional climbing the ladder at a multinational company, and an orphan (the author’s daughter) adopted in the middle of a baby-selling scandal fueled by foreign money. Through their stories, Tong shows us China anew, visiting former prison labor camps on the Tibetan plateau and rural outposts along the Yangtze, exploring the Shanghai of the 1930s, and touring factories across the mainland.
With curiosity and sensitivity, Tong explores the moments that have shaped China and its people, offering a compelling and deeply personal take on how China became what it is today.

272 pages | 5 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2017

Asian Studies: East Asia

Culture Studies

History: Asian History


"He uses a radio journalist’s sense for sound and place to create a vivid and readable account. . . . The book's focus on ordinary people makes it refreshingly accessible."

Financial Times

"Immensely readable. . . . Readers of this book will find their views of China deepened and expanded, and will discover that they can never look on the China in the Western news headlines the same way again."

Christian Science Monitor

"This personal narrative could easily become one of bitterness; instead, Tong tells his story with humor, a little snark, lots of love, and a determination to show the dignity of his people and others he meets along the way. A charming book about a second-generation American's search for his family (past and present) and for himself in contemporary China. Highly recommended, especially for those interested in Chinese history and family journeys.:

Library Journal, starred review

"A solid exploration of China past and present in which the author climbs ‘a punishing mountain of history with [his] intergenerational team."

Kirkus Reviews

“This ambitious work, part social and political history and part personal story, doesn’t attempt to cover all the members of Tong's family. Tong instead concentrates on a few representative relatives who reveal particular facets of the vast changes in China. . . . Tong clearly communicates the complexity of Chinese life and effectively integrates his own story into a much larger one."


"In this, his first book, Scott Tong does much to revive the stocks of two genres that have been looking a bit tired lately: China reportage and China memoir. A former correspondent for the US public radio series Marketplace, he argues that the official narrative of Chinese history is frustratingly incomplete, and his gentle and original fusing of the two genres backs up his claims."

Inside Story

"A remarkable achievement: the writer has overcome his own family’s reluctance to speak about a past punctuated by heart-rending episodes to tell the story of China’s re-emergence through their lives. . . . [A] gem . . . more than just a trip through the ancestral archives."

Post Magazine

"An account of China's treasured historical biography [that] helps answer the question, 'Where did today's China really come from?' . . . Tong succeeds in sharing the raw spirit of China’s people through a period of history that is in many ways better left alone. He captures the hopes, joys, sufferings, losses, fears, present realities, hardships, and dreams of the Chinese people. . . .Like a warm blanket reminding me of good times gone by . . . . Tong gracefully shares the pain of China's history through his family's ancestral past. . . . He takes the secretly packaged and hidden histories of his family and reworks them into this beautiful story filled with both good and bad endings in order to leave a legacy; a legacy for all Chinese families who understand the disconnect between China's past and its current modern age."

China Source

"One of the best books on China in a decade. Tong displays the creative zeal of a world-class investigative reporter, but also the huge heart and family ties of a great-grandson of old China. Tong's family stories are the lived history of China--where exile, starvation and shame alternated with escape, riches, and promise. This is a spellbinding and personal portrait by a remarkably gifted storyteller."

Pietra Rivoli, author of Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy

“Tong uses a reporter's skills and dedication to track down his family’s own story, traveling to such unfamiliar places as a desolate prison camp in remote northeastern China and a child trafficker’s front room. The result is a vivid illustration of the high price paid by his relatives for their links with the West. Compulsively readable, this book traces China’s long and difficult relationship with the outside world through the extraordinary journey of a single family.”

Louisa Lim, author of The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited

A Village with My Name is a wonderful unearthing of long-forgotten but ever-important ties between America and China. It is a great reminder that our relations with China are about more than politics and have stretched farther back than many of us would realize. Besides, it’s a great read!”

John Pomfret, author of The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, from 1776 to the Present

"A Village With My Name is a rich, subtle, closely observed study of the power of memory (and forgetting) to shape both a family and a nation. Tong's multigenerational tale of his remarkable clan captures all the contradictions of a China in world-changing metamorphosis."

Eric Liu, author of A Chinaman’s Chance: One Family’s Journey and the Chinese American Dream

“In this combination of memoir, genealogy, history, and current affairs reporting, Tong uses his discovery of his family’s past in mainland China to put many of China’s most monumental historical events into a human scale. His attempts to clarify or uncover his family history, and the disputes, controversies, and missteps he encounters along the way will be familiar to anyone who has spent time trying to understand how a family became the way it is. Here the story is even more interesting because the story of the Tongs is complicated by the political history of China, which remains very present in their lives.”

James Carter, coauthor of Forging the Modern World: A History

Table of Contents

List of the Characters

Part 1 The Great Opening
1 Secrets of the Tong Village
2 Revenge of the Peasants from Tong East
3 Foreign Exchange: Student Life, Tokyo Wife
4 The Nanjing Glee Club and a Revolution for Girls
5 Genealogies and Corrections: We Regret the Error
6 The Communist Mole in the School

Part 2 The Great Interruption
7 The Day the Japanese War Devils Came
8 Lost and Found: Grandmother’s Voice on Cassette
9 The Wartime Collaborator in Our Family
10 From Prison to Mao’s Gulag
11 The Brother Left Behind in the War
12 Cursed by Overseas Relations

Part 3 The Great Resumption
13 My Cousin and His Shanghai Buick
14 Lonely and Smothered: The Only Child
15 Daughters for Sale


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