It’s Chinese New Year, so what better time to review award-winning journalist Katrina Beikoff’s debut book?
No Chopsticks Required – My Family’s Unexpected Year in Shanghai, (Finch Publishing, RRP $29.95) is Katrina’s entertaining tale of her young family’s exploits at work and at play in China.
Katrina and her partner Gary Smart moved to Shanghai with their daughter Milly, then 3, and son, Nelson, then 1, after accepting one-year contracts to work as foreign experts at The Shanghai Daily.
As Katrina struggles to cope with natural disasters, smog, uprisings, and the battle to find ‘real’ bread, milk and eggs, No Chopsticks Required also tackles the controversial subject of the Chinese education system.
I’m guest-posting about the so-called ‘Tiger Mummy’ phenomenon over at SuperParents tomorrow (Monday April 7), so I won’t go into that here.
Suffice to say that Katrina is well-placed to comment on the subject, given her experiences in China, where Milly was expected to attend kindy from 9 am – 4 pm five days a week – longer than school in Australia! Even one-year-old Nelson was expected to attend classes, though babies were allowed to do half-days.
Somehow, she manages to find a middle-ground, in a country where she was frequently scolded for not dressing her children warmly enough, or for feeding them cereal for breakfast.
Personally, as a former journalist, I was particularly intrigued by Katrina’s often frustrating experiences whilst working at The Shanghai Daily, the city’s only English language paper. Politics, corruption, censorship and a blind faith in the authorities were often rife, and stories were often changed or even ignored completely.
And, as a Mum who once lived overseas with my family, I can also relate to Katrina’s experiences settling in to a new country. I can only imagine how much harder it must have been to come up against a different culture, language and food as well. (Actually, I don’t have to imagine much, because Katrina describes it beautifully).
Katrina and her family lived in China during the Beijing Olympics, the melamine milk contamination scandal, the Tibetan uprising, and the earthquake which killed more than 80,000 people. And quite possibly, for the first time ever, there was Vegemite on the Great Wall Of China. (Literally, thanks to Katrina’s Vegemite-loving tot!)
Thanks to Finch Publishing, I have one copy of No Chopsticks Required – My Family’s Unexpected Year in Shanghai, by Katrina Beikoff, to giveaway.
As the first in my Natural Disaster Giveaway-A-Day, the competition is open to people living in Australia who have been affected by the devastating floods, fires, and cyclones this summer. Or to people who are entering on their behalf.
To enter, follow my blog (if you’re not already doing so), and leave a comment.
And happy Chinese New Year!
Note: I have tried and tried to upload an image of the lovely Katrina and her book. Blogger isn't letting me. So if you'd like to see more, pop along here. Thanks. xo