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In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China

by Michael Meyer

Michael Meyer participated in the Bellagio residency program in 2011. During this residency, he worked on In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China (Bloomsbury USA, 2015). Michael is a writer who has won a Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing, a Whiting Writers’ Award for nonfiction and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His stories have appeared in the New York Times, Time and Smithsonian. 

A few words with Michael

“When I arrived at Bellagio, my archival research and reporting was complete, and I needed a quiet, removed space in which to write.

“Working in a new environment, far removed from northeast China and the United States, helped focus my writing to keep the reader in mind, to render the landscape and characters in a lively way that made them appear as real as they did to me, and make the reader want to keep turning the page.

“I know it’s time to write a book when the book I want to read does not exist. The books I love, both classic (Moby Dick, Down and Out in Paris and London, Berlin Stories) and modern, all intimately describe a particular place and time. They’re reminders that books last, and that you can aim for a reader 100 years from now, not just today’s audience.”


In Manchuria presents a unique profile of China’s legendary northeast territory by combining memoir, contemporary reporting, and historical research.

For three years, Meyer rented a home in the rice-farming community of Wasteland, hometown to his wife’s family. Their personal saga mirrors the tremendous change most of rural China is undergoing, in the form of a privately held rice company that has built new roads, introduced organic farming, and constructed high-rise apartments into which farmers can move in exchange for their land rights. Once a commune, Wasteland is now a company town, a phenomenon happening across China that Meyer documents for the first time.

Through vivid local characters, Meyer illuminates the remnants of the imperial Willow Palisade, Russian and Japanese colonial cities and railways, and the POW camp into which a young American sergeant parachuted to free survivors of the Bataan Death March. In Manchuria is a rich and original chronicle of contemporary China and its people.

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To find out more about Michael’s work, you can visit his website, or follow him on Twitter.