Pomfret, John 1961(?)-

views updated

Pomfret, John 1961(?)-

PERSONAL: Born c. 1961, in Milwaukee, WI; married (wife is an interpreter); children: two. Education: Stanford University, B.A., M.A.; attended Nanjing University, China, c. 1981-82.

ADDRESSES: Office— Washington Post, P.O. Box 17370, Arlington, VA 22216.

CAREER: Journalist and writer. Washington Post, Washington, DC, beginning 1991—, bureau chief in Beijing, China, 1998-2003, Los Angeles bureau chief, c. 2003—. Previously reported for the Associated Press; worked as a bartender in Paris, France.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright scholar at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1983-84; Osborne Elliott Award for Excellence in Asian Journalism, Asia Society, 2003; Alicia Patterson Journalism fellowship, 2004.


Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China, H. Holt (New York, NY), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS: Journalist John Pomfret, who worked for many years as a foreign correspondent in China and other Asian countries, was one of the first Westerners to attend Nanjing University in early 1981. In his book, Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China, the author examines three decades of Chinese history through the lives of five former classmates at Nanjing University, as well as through his own personal observations and diaries. In his story, the author tells how some of his five classmates—who were children of parents caught up in the political purges directed by the Chinese leader Mao as part of the Great Leap Forward and also the Cultural Revolution—witnessed the deaths of their own parents and were sometimes forced to act as accomplices with the Chinese government in their arrests and convictions. “It’s his detailed reporting about their lives before and after graduation . . . that sets this book apart,” noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor, who went on to refer to Chinese Lessons as “a moving account of individual experiences.” Orville Schell, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called the book “a highly personal, honest, funny and well-informed account of China’s hyperactive effort to forget its past and reinvent its future.” Orville added: “What makes this book particularly rewarding is that Pomfret not only describes China today, he also reminds us what came before.” A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author’s “palpable and pithy first-hand depiction . . . offers a swift, elucidating introduction to [China’s] awesome energies and troubling contradictions.”



Pomfret, John, Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China, H. Holt (New York, NY), 2006.


Booklist, August 1, 2006, Steven Schroeder, review of Chinese Lessons, p. 34.

Entertainment Weekly, August 11, 2006, Brian Palmer, review of Chinese Lessons, p. 72.

Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2006, review of Chinese Lessons, p. 623.

Library Journal, August 1, 2006, Charles Hayford, review of Chinese Lessons, p. 104.

New York Times Book Review, August 6, 2006, Orville Schell, review of Chinese Lessons.

New York Times, August 4, 2006, William Grimes, review of Chinese Lessons.

Publishers Weekly, June 19, 2006, review of Chinese Lessons, p. 57.

Washington Monthly, November, 2006, T.A. Frank, review of Chinese Lessons, p. 43.


Asia Pacific Business Outlook 2006, http://www.apbo2006.com/ (January 25, 2007), brief profile of author.

Asia Society Web site, http://www.asiasociety.org/ (February 25, 2004), “Asia Society Announces Winner of the Osborn Elliott Prize for Excellence in Asian Journalism.”

China Digital Times, http://chinadigitaltimes.net/ (July 24, 2006), Sophie Beach, “CDT Bookshelf: Interview with John Pomfret.”

Frontline Web site, http://www.pbs.org/ (January 25, 2007), “Interview with John Pomfret.”

John Pomfret Home Page, http://www.johnpomfret.net (January 25, 2007).

Leigh Bureau Web site, http://www.leighbureau.com/ (January 25, 2007), profile of author.

Prince Roy’s Realm, http://www.princeroy.org/ (September 12, 2006), review of Chinese Lessons.*