Renowned Journalist to Discuss China’s Transformation ‘From Reform Generation to Generation Xi’

In partnership with University of Montana’s Mansfield Dialogues speaker series, The New Yorker staff writer Peter Hessler will speak on April 4 at FVCC

By Tristan Scott
Flathead Valley Community College. Beacon file photo.

More than 25 years ago, on a Peace Corps assignment in the Chinese province of Yangtze, Peter Hessler taught in a small rural college in the Sichuan river town of Fuling. Two decades later, just before the pandemic upended the global economy, Hessler returned to the same region to teach at Sichuan University, where sweeping social and political reform rendered the experience unique to his previous time there.

Peter Hessler, staff writer at The New Yorker, will speak about China’s generational reform on April 4 at FVCC. Courtesy photo

In a forthcoming book stretching across two generations, during which China has undergone sweeping transformations to its economy, Hessler bridges modern China to its deep past while reconnecting with former students who are now in their 40s.

Hessler will be on hand next week to discuss the book, “Other Rivers,” during a presentation at Flathead Valley Community College (FVCC). The presentation is in partnership with the University of Montana’s Mansfield Dialogues speaker series, and Hessler will appear at the Kalispell campus Thursday, April 4. The evening talk, titled “From the Reform Generation to Generation Xi,” begins at 7 p.m. in the Arts and Technology Building Room 139. The event is free and open to the public.

“The best thing I did was before I left Fuling, I copied all the mailing addresses of my students,” Hessler told The Harvard Advocate in an interview last year. “For years I was writing them letters every semester and sending them to all these addresses; I had a whole system for this. I used to hand-address these letters in Chinese, which was hard to do. Over time it switched over to email so we could communicate more easily.”

Hessler has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2000. Initially, he resided in China’s Sichuan province as a Peace Corps volunteer from 1996 to 1998, an episode later chronicled in his debut book, “River Town.” Hessler continued his exploration of China with the subsequent two books, “Oracle Bones” and “Country Driving,” completing a trilogy of reported works spanning a decade.

In 2011, Hessler relocated with his family to Cairo, residing there for five years. His fifth book, “The Buried,” delves into his experiences during the Egyptian Arab Spring.

Returning to China in 2019, Hessler spent two years teaching at Sichuan University. During this period, he covered the pandemic for The New Yorker, reporting from Wuhan and other cities. His forthcoming book, “Other Rivers,” slated for publication next summer, captures his experiences during this time. Currently, Hessler resides in southwestern Colorado with his wife, the writer Leslie T. Chang, and their twin daughters.

For more information, visit fvcc.edu/honors.