A Village with My Name

The Story

If you find yourself on the wrong side of history, no one tells yours. A Village with My Name: A Family History of China’s Opening to the World is longtime public radio journalist Scott Tong’s long view of China’s links to the West, told through the lives of five people across five generations in his own family. He begins by pursuing the lives of relatives and ancestors whose stories are deliberately left out of the family conversation:

* A father of three, an enemy collaborator in World War II, exiled to a labor camp from which few survive 

* An eight year-old girl educated by American missionaries, one of the first Chinese girls to read and run who becomes the accompanist for the Nanjing Glee Club. 

* A toddler abandoned during China’s civil war, for decades never mentioned by the father who left him behind.

The untold stories and history help fill in an oft-ignored chapter in Chinese history: the contribution of mainlanders who adopted the ideas, music and literature of the outside world. Although A Village with My Name is a personalized, historical telling, it addresses questions people around the world are asking today about globalization, national identity and drawbridges: when a society lurches from open to closed to open, what is the human cost? Why do bad economics happen to good protectionists? Are open trade and borders the historical norm, or the exception?

Pietra Rivoli, author of Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy

"One of the best books on China in a decade. Tong displays the creative zeal of a world-class investigative reporter, but also the huge heart and family ties of a great-grandson of old China. Tong's family stories are the lived history of China--where exile, starvation and shame alternated with escape, riches, and promise. This is a spellbinding and personal portrait by a remarkably gifted storyteller."

Louisa Lim, author of The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited

“Tong uses a reporter's skills and dedication to track down his family’s own story, traveling to such unfamiliar places as a desolate prison camp in remote northeastern China and a child trafficker’s front room. The result is a vivid illustration of the high price paid by his relatives for their links with the West. Compulsively readable, this book traces China’s long and difficult relationship with the outside world through the extraordinary journey of a single family.”

John Pomfret, author of The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, from 1776 to the Present

“A Village with My Name is a wonderful unearthing of long-forgotten but ever-important ties between America and China. It is a great reminder that our relations with China are about more than politics and have stretched farther back than many of us would realize. Besides, it’s a great read!”

Eric Liu, author of A Chinaman’s Chance: One Family’s Journey and the Chinese American Dream

"A Village With My Name is a rich, subtle, closely observed study of the power of memory (and forgetting) to shape both a family and a nation. Tong's multigenerational tale of his remarkable clan captures all the contradictions of a China in world-changing metamorphosis."

Kirkus Reviews

"A solid exploration of China past and present in which the author climbs ‘a punishing mountain of history with [his] intergenerational team."


“This ambitious work, part social and political history and part personal story, doesn’t attempt to cover all the members of Tong's family. Tong instead concentrates on a few representative relatives who reveal particular facets of the vast changes in China. . . . Tong clearly communicates the complexity of Chinese life and effectively integrates his own story into a much larger one."

Library Journal

"This personal narrative could easily become one of bitterness; instead, Tong tells his story with humor, a little snark, lots of love, and a determination to show the dignity of his people and others he meets along the way.

VERDICT: Highly recommended, especially for those interested in Chinese history and family journeys.”

James Carter, coauthor of Forging the Modern World: A History

“In this combination of memoir, genealogy, history, and current affairs reporting, Tong uses his discovery of his family’s past in mainland China to put many of China’s most monumental historical events into a human scale. His attempts to clarify or uncover his family history, and the disputes, controversies, and missteps he encounters along the way will be familiar to anyone who has spent time trying to understand how a family became the way it is. Here the story is even more interesting because the story of the Tongs is complicated by the political history of China, which remains very present in their lives.”