Eating Bitterness

Stories from the Front Lines of China’s Great Urban Migration

Every year over 200 million peasants flock to China’s urban centers, providing a profusion of cheap labor that helps fuel the country’s staggering economic growth. Award-winning journalist Michelle Dammon Loyalka follows the trials and triumphs of eight such migrants—including a vegetable vendor, an itinerant knife sharpener, a free-spirited recycler, and a cash-strapped mother—offering an inside look at the pain, self-sacrifice, and uncertainty underlying China’s dramatic national transformation. At the heart of the book lies each person’s ability to “eat bitterness”—a term that roughly means to endure hardships, overcome difficulties, and forge ahead. These stories illustrate why China continues to advance, even as the rest of the world remains embroiled in financial turmoil. At the same time, Eating Bitterness demonstrates how dealing with the issues facing this class of people constitutes China’s most pressing domestic challenge. —University of California Press


Michelle Dammon Loyalka
University of California Press
March 2012

Michelle Dammon Loyalka is an award winning journalist who has lived in China since 1997. Her work on the psychological repercussions of China’s rapid development has earned her both an Overseas Press Club scholarship and the O.O. McIntyre Fellowship. Ms. Loyalka compiled and edited a daily feature section for BusinessWeek Online from China for six years. She has freelanced for publications including The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Inc., Fast Company and San Francisco Business Times. She is a contributor to the soon-to-be released book of essays Chinese Characters: Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land (University of California Press).