China in Drag: Travels with a Cross-dresser by Michael Bristow

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China in Drag: Travels with a Cross-dresser by Michael Bristow

Bristow China.jpg
Buy China in Drag: Travels with a Cross-dresser by Michael Bristow at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: Moving, illuminating and eye-opening, China in Drag is a sensitive and unique investigation into everyday life in China and an affectionately painted portrait of a Chinese man who's a little different from the norm.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: September 2017
Publisher: Sandstone Press Limited
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1910985908

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Having worked for nine years in Bejing as a journalist for the BBC, author Michael Bristow decided to write about Chinese history. Having been learning the local language for several years, Bristow asked his language teacher for guidance - the language teacher, born in the early fifties, offered Bristow a compelling picture of life in Communist China - but added to that, Bristow was greatly surprised to find that his language teacher also enjoyed spending his spare time in ladies clothing. It soon becomes clear that the tale told here is immensely personal - yet also paints a fascinating portrait of one of the world's most intriguing nations.


Michael Bristow is a journalist for the BBC - having spent almost a decade in China, he's now the Asia/Pacific editor for the BBC World Service, and has written his first book in China in Drag. China isn't a country I know a huge amount about - I've made it as far as Hong Kong but have never reached the mainland. I find it fascinating though - a huge population of 1,379 billion people living in an ancient and varied land and ruled over by a government who censor the media that their people see. As a result, reading about the life of a cross-dresser in China makes for fascinating reading - and the fact that the story is told by both a foreigner and a Chinese native gives it a unique and compelling viewpoint that expands as the two travel through China, and through the past of the cross-dressing teacher.

Understandably private, the teacher's name is never revealed - but he's a strong, likealbe and immensely sympathetic character who longs to explore his personality and desires but is constantly afraid of bringing shame upon his loved ones. Through him, Bristow is able to explore the complexities of family life in China, the realties of spending life in a Communist country with significant state control, and the sheer bravery required to be one's self in a country where differing from the norm is not an easy thing to do. It creates an instand bond between the reader and the teacher - it's rather impossible not to feel for this gentle, educated and eloquent man, and Bristow probes his life with care and affection.

Culturally and emotionally sensitive, Bristow has crafted a tale that's as informative as it is moving - a unique and endlessely fascinating exploration of life in another culture. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.

For further reading I recommend Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle - like "China In Drag" an intimate and eye opening portrayal of life in a culture that's very different to ours.

Buy China in Drag: Travels with a Cross-dresser by Michael Bristow at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy China in Drag: Travels with a Cross-dresser by Michael Bristow at Amazon.co.uk


Buy China in Drag: Travels with a Cross-dresser by Michael Bristow at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy China in Drag: Travels with a Cross-dresser by Michael Bristow at Amazon.com.

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