Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land presents a series of portraits of diverse individuals, from monks to elementary school children to painters of “local” Coloradan art, and more than a few dissidents, none of an international renown and all the better to understand the limits of the totalitarian regime and the sophisticated understanding of the limits by the people. The portrait are uneven, some very lively such as the description of schools, others emotionally remote and occasionally puzzling. For instance, in one of the chapters about Tibet the author asserts that Tibetans are better off under Chinese rule because health care is better, which I’m happy to believe it is, but surely the weight of foreign occupation cannot be completely erased by a better health system.
(And one could wish that the University of California Press could employ a better proofreader. I doubt that the author of the first portrait is grumbling epitaths on his way up Mount Heng!)