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Out of the Gobi: My Story of China and America

Weijian Shan

ISBN: 978-1-119-52955-2 January 2019 496 Pages


Foreword by Janet Yellen

Weijian Shan's Out of the Gobi is a powerful memoir and commentary that will be one of the most important books on China of our time, one with the potential to re-shape how Americans view China, and how the Chinese view life in America.

Shan, a former hard laborer who is now one of Asia's best-known financiers, is thoughtful, observant, eloquent, and brutally honest, making him well-positioned to tell the story of a life that is a microcosm of modern China, and of how, improbably, that life became intertwined with America. Out of the Gobi draws a vivid picture of the raw human energy and the will to succeed against all odds.

Shan only finished elementary school when Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution tore his country apart. He was a witness to the brutality and absurdity of Mao’s policies during one of the most tumultuous eras in China’s history. Exiled to the Gobi Desert at age 15 and denied schooling for 10 years, he endured untold hardships without ever giving up his dream for an education. Shan’s improbable journey, from the Gobi to the “People’s Republic of Berkeley” and far beyond, is a uniquely American success story – told with a splash of humor, deep insight and rich and engaging detail.

This powerful and personal perspective on China and America will inform Americans' view of China, humanizing the country, while providing a rare view of America from the prism of a keen foreign observer who lived the American dream.

Says former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen: “Shan’s life provides a demonstration of what is possible when China and the United States come together, even by happenstance. It is not only Shan’s personal history that makes this book so interesting but also how the stories of China and America merge in just one moment in time to create an inspired individual so unique and driven, and so representative of the true sprits of both countries.”

Foreword ix

Acknowledgments xi

Author’s Note xiii

Prologue 1

Chapter 1 Man-Made Famine 5

Chapter 2 School Cut Short 21

Chapter 3 Storm of Revolution 35

Chapter 4 Turmoil Under Heaven 53

Chapter 5 Exiled to the Gobi 77

Chapter 6 Digging for Potatoes 93

Chapter 7 War Is Coming 109

Chapter 8 Repairing the Earth 123

Chapter 9 Battling Frozen Lake 137

Chapter 10 The Longest Night 159

Chapter 11 Unforgettable Movie Night 173

Chapter 12 Barefoot Doctor 185

Chapter 13 Brickmaking the Ancient Way 213

Chapter 14 Petition to Mao 237

Chapter 15 Pigs Don’t Fly 249

Chapter 16 Half the Sky 267

Chapter 17 Desert Dreams of College 281

Chapter 18 Last Convulsions of the Revolution 305

Chapter 19 Roads to Rome 331

Chapter 20 Old Gold Mountain 345

Chapter 21 The People’s Republic of Berkeley 379

Chapter 22 Ivy League Professor 403

Epilogue 437

Index 445