Review of Peter Hessler's 'Oracle Bones'

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Synopsis In Oracle Bones, Peter Hessler (2006) explores the history and culture of China, incorporating personal and social commentary. Hessler (2006) also weaves personal stories of individual Chinese people into Oracle Bones, to provide both a broad and an intimate narrative. The three core personal narratives are vastly different, to capture the diversity of Chinese culture and society. One of the people that Hesler (2006) follows is a Uighur (Muslim from Eastern China), who successfully endeavors to leave China for the United States. Named Polat, the Uighur's perspective on Chinese society and politics provides an interesting counterpart to the entire tale of Oracle Bones. The second personal narrative belongs to Chen Mengjia, who lends Hessler's book its title because Cheng Mengjia was an oracle bone scholar. The oracle bones become the title for Hessler's (2006) book because they symbolize the continuity between past, present, and future that characterizes modern China. A third narrative thread is created by stringing together the stories of young Chinese students, both men and women. Their optimistic visions of the future contrast poignantly with the stories of Chen Mengjia and Polat, who expose more of the dark side of China especially the Cultural Revolution. Chen Mengjia committed suicide during the Cultural Revolution. Hessler (2006) interviews an old man about the issue of personal responsibility and political activism and reveals the deeply conflicted nature

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