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Down on his luck and disabled, cancer survivor Matthew Evans had nothing to lose by fleeing the farmsteads of Muscatine, Iowa, at age 21 to pursue his Chinese Dream. With all the makings of a classic folk tale, his curiosity became an epic five-year adventure that would find him homeless, stateless, posing as a professor, imprisoned, deported, and caught in the middle of t Down on his luck and disabled, cancer survivor Matthew Evans had nothing to lose by fleeing the farmsteads of Muscatine, Iowa, at age 21 to pursue his Chinese Dream. With all the makings of a classic folk tale, his curiosity became an epic five-year adventure that would find him homeless, stateless, posing as a professor, imprisoned, deported, and caught in the middle of the 2014 Hong Kong protests. Though it has all the form of great fiction, An American Bum in China is a true story and all the crazier for it. MEDIA REVIEWS "Painfully hilarious...the escapades Evans experiences are the stuff of legend." -- Des Moines Register "His story serve(s) as a cautionary tale for anyone who may believe that China needs Americans more than Americans need China, using Evans' misadventures as an example." -- Muscatine Journal "Tom Carter does very well to draw out Evans' story, to capture the declining towns of the Midwest, to narrate his friend's exploits with humor, pithy realities, and insight, and to emphasize the political significance of China's events. His prose is deft and his observations show an excellent knowledge of what he speaks." -- The Beijinger "A picaresque foray into the world of the foreign down-and-out reminiscent of the 18th century English novelist Tobias Smollett." -- Taipei Times "I suspect many readers, U.S. readers in particular, will regard Matthew Evans as a disgrace. Carter's engaging narrative, at once wry and affectionately told, has a built-in liability, its distasteful subject matter, which may keep book reviewers at arm's length as well." -- Isham Cook, author of Confucius and Opium: China Book Reviews, for the chapter 'The adorable expat eccentric' "Tom Carter should be applauded for daring to publish an unconventional work that is not only a fun and whimsical read about one of America's oddest new pioneers but also a tale that captures the bleak zeitgeist of our age." -- Arthur Meursault, author of Party Members, for The American Conservative "One of the best books of the year, immensely entertaining while at the same time rich in insights into a country too few of us understand." -- San Francisco Review of Books "Carter has created an entertaining tale about the lower rungs of the expat scene in China...he also captures the atmosphere of the early years of Xi Jinping's reign--the crackdown on foreigners, the end of the party in Macau and the beginning of the protest movement in Hong Kong." -- Asian Review of Books "Whether one reads with feelings of compassion and empathy, or just can't look away from the train wreck, one way or another, it will definitely be worth the read." -- Ray Hecht, author of South China Morning Blues, for Cha: An Asian Literary Journal "An American Bum in China may satisfy readers disillusioned with polished and uplifting travel stories, and are ready to discover how unforgiving foreign travel can be for those unprepared for reality - or those who, perhaps, never lived in it in the first place." -- The World of Chinese "Evans' exploits serve as a primer on what not to do, not just in China but in life generally...Perhaps I am being unkind. Carter, the narrator, is far more sympathetic. There is a morality tale here but he tells it in good humor; it is an enjoyable romp and a quick read." -- JFK Miller, author of Trickle-down Censorship, for China Law Blog "Even the most ardent defenders of fiction will be forced to admit: you just can't make this stuff up...there is a page-turning quality to the book based on the simple, foreboding question: just how bad is this going to get?" -- Quincy Carroll, author of Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside, for Los Angeles Review of Books' China Channel


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Down on his luck and disabled, cancer survivor Matthew Evans had nothing to lose by fleeing the farmsteads of Muscatine, Iowa, at age 21 to pursue his Chinese Dream. With all the makings of a classic folk tale, his curiosity became an epic five-year adventure that would find him homeless, stateless, posing as a professor, imprisoned, deported, and caught in the middle of t Down on his luck and disabled, cancer survivor Matthew Evans had nothing to lose by fleeing the farmsteads of Muscatine, Iowa, at age 21 to pursue his Chinese Dream. With all the makings of a classic folk tale, his curiosity became an epic five-year adventure that would find him homeless, stateless, posing as a professor, imprisoned, deported, and caught in the middle of the 2014 Hong Kong protests. Though it has all the form of great fiction, An American Bum in China is a true story and all the crazier for it. MEDIA REVIEWS "Painfully hilarious...the escapades Evans experiences are the stuff of legend." -- Des Moines Register "His story serve(s) as a cautionary tale for anyone who may believe that China needs Americans more than Americans need China, using Evans' misadventures as an example." -- Muscatine Journal "Tom Carter does very well to draw out Evans' story, to capture the declining towns of the Midwest, to narrate his friend's exploits with humor, pithy realities, and insight, and to emphasize the political significance of China's events. His prose is deft and his observations show an excellent knowledge of what he speaks." -- The Beijinger "A picaresque foray into the world of the foreign down-and-out reminiscent of the 18th century English novelist Tobias Smollett." -- Taipei Times "I suspect many readers, U.S. readers in particular, will regard Matthew Evans as a disgrace. Carter's engaging narrative, at once wry and affectionately told, has a built-in liability, its distasteful subject matter, which may keep book reviewers at arm's length as well." -- Isham Cook, author of Confucius and Opium: China Book Reviews, for the chapter 'The adorable expat eccentric' "Tom Carter should be applauded for daring to publish an unconventional work that is not only a fun and whimsical read about one of America's oddest new pioneers but also a tale that captures the bleak zeitgeist of our age." -- Arthur Meursault, author of Party Members, for The American Conservative "One of the best books of the year, immensely entertaining while at the same time rich in insights into a country too few of us understand." -- San Francisco Review of Books "Carter has created an entertaining tale about the lower rungs of the expat scene in China...he also captures the atmosphere of the early years of Xi Jinping's reign--the crackdown on foreigners, the end of the party in Macau and the beginning of the protest movement in Hong Kong." -- Asian Review of Books "Whether one reads with feelings of compassion and empathy, or just can't look away from the train wreck, one way or another, it will definitely be worth the read." -- Ray Hecht, author of South China Morning Blues, for Cha: An Asian Literary Journal "An American Bum in China may satisfy readers disillusioned with polished and uplifting travel stories, and are ready to discover how unforgiving foreign travel can be for those unprepared for reality - or those who, perhaps, never lived in it in the first place." -- The World of Chinese "Evans' exploits serve as a primer on what not to do, not just in China but in life generally...Perhaps I am being unkind. Carter, the narrator, is far more sympathetic. There is a morality tale here but he tells it in good humor; it is an enjoyable romp and a quick read." -- JFK Miller, author of Trickle-down Censorship, for China Law Blog "Even the most ardent defenders of fiction will be forced to admit: you just can't make this stuff up...there is a page-turning quality to the book based on the simple, foreboding question: just how bad is this going to get?" -- Quincy Carroll, author of Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside, for Los Angeles Review of Books' China Channel

30 review for An American Bum in China: Featuring the bumblingly brilliant escapades of expatriate Matthew Evans

  1. 5 out of 5

    Fran

    In 2010, at the canal city of Suzhou, China, Matthew Evans attended a book signing for Tom Carter's new book. Tom, a photojournalist, had documented his backpacking journey through every Chinese province having traveled over 35,000 miles over a period of two years. Matthew's knapsack contained a well worn copy of Tom's tome, ready to be signed. Who was Matthew Evans? Matthew was "slouched defeatedly" and seemed unable to maintain eye contact. He walked with a limp, had missing teeth, and looked o In 2010, at the canal city of Suzhou, China, Matthew Evans attended a book signing for Tom Carter's new book. Tom, a photojournalist, had documented his backpacking journey through every Chinese province having traveled over 35,000 miles over a period of two years. Matthew's knapsack contained a well worn copy of Tom's tome, ready to be signed. Who was Matthew Evans? Matthew was "slouched defeatedly" and seemed unable to maintain eye contact. He walked with a limp, had missing teeth, and looked old beyond his 23 years after suffering a bout with cancer, possibly as a result of high industrial pollution in his small town of Muscatine, Iowa. "It was for his very first kiss...the real reason he came to China...why he kept going back no matter how many times the Chinese drove him out." Matthew was "never good about picking up on social cues...[He went]...against all ordinary reasoning, practically sought it out." "...Evans saw the laws of the land differently than other folks." His transgressions included: illegal entry into Muse, Burma through a hole in a fence in Ruili, a border town in Yunnan Province, with plans to sell his American passport. Additionally, he obtained a "fake diploma" with the intention of posing as a university professor. Matthew's "Chinese Dream" was not in the cards. "Having been repeatedly chewed up and spat out, in a matter of months, Evans was insolvent...", homeless, penniless, and forced to sleep in public places like McDonalds and in a tent in Hong Kong during the 2014 protests. "An American Bun in China: Featuring the bumbling brilliant escapades of expatriate Matthew Evans " by Tom Carter paints a rich tapestry of the recollections of Matthew Evans. At times humorous, it recounts a five year journey aimed at cutting family ties and becoming his own man, however, he was his own worst enemy! Author Carter's commentary on being a "laowai" (foreigner) rings true. When this reader visited a small city outside Guangzhou, the residents were curious about me, often snapping photos! The tome was as informative as it was entertaining. The graphic illustrations by John Dobson were awesome. A highly recommended read. Thank you Tom Carter, Michael Cannings at Camphor Press Ltd. and Goodreads for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    “Disparate as they sounded back then, however, I realize now that the arc of his adventures share the same timeless threads that, throughout world history, have driven other immigrants, expatriates, and refugees to the United States, only in reverse. His singular story has all the makings of an un-American folk tale…” So author Tom Carter tells the story of his friend Matthew Evans, a perpetual hard-luck case who might just be the oddest expat you’ve ever heard of (and if you’ve been around a goo “Disparate as they sounded back then, however, I realize now that the arc of his adventures share the same timeless threads that, throughout world history, have driven other immigrants, expatriates, and refugees to the United States, only in reverse. His singular story has all the makings of an un-American folk tale…” So author Tom Carter tells the story of his friend Matthew Evans, a perpetual hard-luck case who might just be the oddest expat you’ve ever heard of (and if you’ve been around a good number of expats, that’s saying a lot). Evans’ tale begins in the small town of Muscatine, Iowa—where Xi Jinping actually visited in 2012. The comparisons of rural America to rural China are vivid, and in a way that makes it only natural that such a person would be driven to Shanghai and elsewhere as he seeks a better life. Spoiler alert, he never does get that better life. This quote pretty much sums it up: “Like everything else that had happened to him in life, from leukemia to being deported, Evans took his dismissal stolidly and as a matter of course.” Within this slim book, we are quickly taken on this man’s journey as he sadly gets diagnosed with cancer and then gets his first kiss and then loses his virginity and is then deported and then returns and then gets a fake degree and so on and so on. Somehow, Evans not only became an ESL teacher but was briefly a “professor” at *two* prestigious universities! Matthew Evans becomes increasingly unsympathetic as time goes by, specifically when it comes to how he obliviously treats his female university students. There’s no question this poor fellow was not equipped with the skills necessary to make it in the world, whether in America or in China. But he does keep making it worse for himself. In the end, whether one approves of his character or not, it certainly can’t be denied that he’s dang interesting and I suppose that makes this a successful book. Eventually, there’s a Burmese misadventure and jailtime and homelessness, and Evans is permanently exiled from China. Justifiably so, it must be said. Over in Hong Kong he finds himself tear gassed during the 2014 Umbrella movement and then joins the encampments purely out of personal convenience. That’s one way to witness history in the making. The book is certainly a page-turner. Carter philosophizes from time to time, speculating on what it all means. It’s hard to say, but there are things herein worth thinking about. Where does a man like Matthew Evans belong? In just what society would he be able to make it? The book is over before you know it, leaving the reader with a strange yet authentic taste of life in the margins of expathood. Whether one reads with a feeling of empathy, or just can’t look away from the train wreck, one way or another it’s a book definitely worth reading.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Frank B

    In Jia Zhangke’s 2018 movie 'Ash is Purest White', the protagonist Qiao, gets off a Yangtze river ferry near the Three Gorges Dam. She knows nobody in this new city and has no money. Desperate, the ruse she employs is to walk into a restaurant, call a rich looking young man out of a private dining room and tell him he has got her younger sister pregnant. She demands money as compensation. The trick works, the scared man hands over a bunch of red hundred RMB notes. Qiao, a gangster’s girlfriend f In Jia Zhangke’s 2018 movie 'Ash is Purest White', the protagonist Qiao, gets off a Yangtze river ferry near the Three Gorges Dam. She knows nobody in this new city and has no money. Desperate, the ruse she employs is to walk into a restaurant, call a rich looking young man out of a private dining room and tell him he has got her younger sister pregnant. She demands money as compensation. The trick works, the scared man hands over a bunch of red hundred RMB notes. Qiao, a gangster’s girlfriend fresh from jail, has skills that Matthew Evans, the antihero of Tom Carter’s An American Bum in China, couldn’t dream off. Evans, like Qiao, finds himself broke and alone in China. Unlike Qiao, he is not a character in a movie where wild schemes succeed. Matthew Evans starts out at his mum’s house in Muscatine, Iowa, and ends up homeless in Hong Kong. On the way he is kicked out of China, goes back there to work as a teacher, and is then banished again. He is a childlike adventurer in a world that Carter steps in to interpret because, even if he wasn’t preoccupied with mere survival, Evans would be incapable of doing so. “As I would come to learn, Evans embodied that apocryphal Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times”; he seemed to revel in his wretchedness and, going against all ordinary reasoning, practically sought it out.” The author meets Evans at a book signing in Suzhou. Carter self-deprecatingly tells us this event for his book of photography is not well-attended, and so he has the time to get to know Evans, a young man of dishevelled appearance. “He was missing some teeth, he slouched defeatedly, he wore rimless glasses, his jowls were pudgy and scruffy, his wheat blond hair prematurely thinning, and the left corner of his bottom lip droopy.” Taken with this eccentric, who reels off his various plans and experiences in a stream of consciousness style, Carter will meet up with Evans many times over the next few years, seeing him as a kind of American pioneer in reverse or a luckless Huck Finn. Given the various references to Mark Twain, Carter is obviously a fan of his style. The book is illustrated by “catchpenny” prints by John Dobson. The pictures often give welcome comic relief to what is a tragic narrative. We first meet Evans in the prologue, humming the Doors’ “Break on Through” as he illegally crosses into Burma from China to sell his American passport. This first glimpse has us wanting to know how Evans has come to this low point, but we’ll have to be patient while Carter fills us in on the necessary background of his scruffy protagonist. Xi Jinping visited Evans’s hometown, Muscatine, both in 1985 as an agricultural delegate and later in 2012 just before becoming president. Xi allegedly has a soft spot for this place in America’s agricultural heartland. But through Evans’s eyes Muscatine is decaying: businesses are failing, manufacturers have left, while teenage pregnancies and the opioid crisis point to a dysfunctional society. There is no future for him, beyond a long sentence of loneliness living with his mother and working at a Hyvee supermarket. While the American dream is over the Chinese dream is just taking off and Evans wants a piece of it. Evans had cancer as a child and the treatment has left him with a limp in addition to the missing teeth and thinning hair. He was a social outcast at high school. No dates or parties for Matthew. Rather than giving into frustration, the 21-year-old Evans hatches an escape plan, yes, China to see a girl he has met online. As former New York Times reporter Seth Faison noted in his memoir South of the Clouds, you don’t need to live up to Western standards of masculinity in China. By the same token Chinese find Western tastes in Chinese women rather odd. By crossing the cultural divide romantic opportunities can be created for those marked as weird looking and offbeat in their own culture. The story of the bumbling (young) Western male going to Asia to find love and (often) teach English is not a new one. There are countless memoirs detailing these adventures, whether it be in Korea, Japan, China or elsewhere. Often it leads to a different kind of isolation due to culture shock. As apparently anybody can get on a plane to Asia and teach English, the topic is not seen as a serious one to write about. Also, for some its unsavory because of cultural insensitivity of many of these sojourners, who indulge in excesses of alcohol and sex—or at least sexual intent. This attitude seems judgmental though, there are many jobs ‘anybody’ can do. No matter if it’s teaching or working at 7-Eleven you still have to turn up—and they’ll be material for a story if you are a good writer. Quincy Carroll’s 2015 novel “Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside” is one example of a quality work about the English teaching scene in China. Carroll’s book is fiction though, Carter’s is non-fiction—well most of it, remembering that his source was the unreliable Evans. When he gets to China, Evans finds out that his MySpace girl is a lesbian. Out of cash, but not ready to go home, he hits up other women on the now obsolete chat platform QQ. A real estate agent takes pity and allows him to crash in one of her apartments in Shanghai in return for odd jobs. For a while he has the kind of life he’d been hoping for, finding regular female company through QQ. But he neglects his odd jobs and the real estate agent gets fed up and sets the police on him. Evans visa has expired. He makes a run for it but is caught, briefly locked up and deported. In his second stay in China Evans, armed this time with a fake college diploma, becomes a professor at a reputable university. He gets fired only to find an even better university teaching job— at a time when China was starting to try to get rid of unqualified, shady foreigners. Carter uses the term professor, but this seems like one of Evans’s own embellishments and his title should be “English teacher”. Once again Evans is somewhere near happy: the university is out in Shanghai’s Minhang district far from the glitzy nightlife of the French Concession, but he has his own place. One of Carter’s friends, an editor of an expat mag waiting on his first paycheck, moves in with Evans and they have a boozy time of things. One night a couple of female students join them, the editor gets the girls and Evans heads out to look for a hairdresser open in the middle of the night, these places being brothels in weak disguise. Carter at various stages tries to convince Evans to clean up his act and go straight, but the Iowan cannot help but self-sabotage. He asks all his female students out on the WeChat app, China’s WhatsApp. In due course complaints lead to the discovery that his diploma is fake and once again Evans is on the run. This time it will be worse. After losing his passport in Burma, Evans has to sleep in hotel lobbies, ATM booths and McDonald's. He alienates his family as his grandmother pays for a plane home that he can’t board sans passport. He experiences the hippie backpacker scene in Yunnan province but doesn’t seem to enjoy it much. In between dribbles of money from his family and QQ girls he nearly starves to death. Eventually he gets a new passport from the US consulate, but is given ten days to leave the country. He goes to Hong Kong and tries to get a new visa for the mainland but is now blacklisted. Evans thinks he will get a job in Hong Kong, noting the many illegal Southeast Asian prostitutes can work there. He fails. Far from the only one doing so in a city of ridiculously high rents, he sleeps outside on a piece of cardboard. He tries for a job in Macau but again no, the city is in a downturn due to Xi’s anti-corruption campaign. Evans, by this stage a 27-year-old going on sixty, retreats to McDonald’s, near to starvation again. “Evans brilliantly albeit unwittingly realized that for just thirteen Macanese patacas per day (about a buck and a half), he could live off one small order of McDonald’s French fries daily, along with free water and condiments packets, which from morning to night came down to one single ketchup-covered fry per hour — exactly the minimum amount of nutrition, salt, and sugar that the body and brain require.” Back in Hong Kong he has a slice of luck at last. The umbrella protest movement of 2014 has begun, students camping out and are only too happy to give Evans food. They assume he is showing solidarity with their cause. Evans much like Forrest Gump lives through some of the major events of the day with no idea what’s going on. However, eventually this too will have to end. Carter has created an entertaining tale about the lower rungs of the expat scene in China, including the bar streets and backpacker hostels. He also captures the atmosphere of the early years of Xi Jinping’s reign—the crackdown on foreigners, the end of the party in Macau and the beginning of the protest movement in Hong Kong. This is a tale of being away from home and out of your depth that many can relate too. Evans is, I would guess, proud of this portrait—apparently the book was his idea. It grates that he didn’t wise up and have more fun, but I wish him the best and hope he doesn’t try to go and make a life for himself in, for example, Japan or Thailand in the future—he is not the type to learn from his mistakes.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Grady

    ‘May you live in interesting times’ – an apocryphal Chinese curse! Author Tom Carter has become a leader in international diplomacy! His immensely successful book CHINA: PORTRAIT OF A PEOPLE remains a model of melding photography with commentary. This handsome hunk adventurer is from San Francisco originally but won a degree in political science from the American University in Washington, DC and packed his backpack for China in 2004 where he spent two years trekking across 35,000 miles through ev ‘May you live in interesting times’ – an apocryphal Chinese curse! Author Tom Carter has become a leader in international diplomacy! His immensely successful book CHINA: PORTRAIT OF A PEOPLE remains a model of melding photography with commentary. This handsome hunk adventurer is from San Francisco originally but won a degree in political science from the American University in Washington, DC and packed his backpack for China in 2004 where he spent two years trekking across 35,000 miles through every Chinese province, winning the title `son of China's foremost explorers' while capturing it all on film and imbedding his psyche with the myriad aspects of the people and beauties of China. This man knows China and he still lives there - in Shanghai. Now Tom offers a very contemporary and timely book that takes a different twist on his own experiences. Tom narrates this splendidly entertaining (and informative) tale of Matthew Evans, a fellow expatriate (Matthew is from Iowa) whose travels/travails in China bristle with human errors and misadventures in a most colorful manner. The synopsis holds the adventure well: ‘Down on his luck and disabled, cancer survivor Matthew Evans had nothing to lose by fleeing the farmsteads of Muscatine, Iowa, at age 21 to pursue his Chinese Dream. With all the makings of a classic folk tale, his curiosity became an epic five-year adventure that would find him homeless, stateless, posing as a professor, imprisoned, deported, and caught in the middle of the 2014 Hong Kong protests.’ Abetted by John Dobson’s fine drawings/illustrations, Tom starts his story as follows: It was just about midnight when Matthew Evans burrowed rodent-like through a hole in a fence in southwestern China’s subtropical Yennan Province and illegally crossed the border into Burma. The jagged opening in the iron rails had already been cut out, probably years earlier, and was one of the countless unlawful points of entry between Ruili, a bustling Chinese bordertown on the Shweli River, and the small Burmese city of Muse...’ As Tom later shares, ‘I first met Matthew Evans from Muscatine in 2010 at a book signing at the sparsely patronized Bookworm in the scenic canal town of Suzhou…Evans had emailed me two years prior, saying he had read my book and asked about coming to China…’ And thus begins one of the best books of the year, immensely entertaining while at the same time rich in insights into a country too few of us understand. ‘I realize now that the arc of his adventures share the same timeless threads that, throughout world history, have driven other immigrants, expatriates, and refugees to the United States, only in reverse.’ In that statement, as in this book, Tom focuses on the very timely conundrum of the White House wrangle with the ‘border wall’ and migrants in general. To understand the ‘now’ of it all, read Tom Carter’s very worthy story – for pleasure, and for insight! Said once, say again - This is an important book, not only because of the content, but also because Tom Carter cares about the `globalism ` of learning about all the friends who share this planet. Very highly recommended for all readers.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mark Oulton

    This short book is brilliant and hilarious. It’s the story of one Matthew Evans, who escapes the drudgery of Muscatine, Iowa, population not a lot, and a place where farmers “cob-roll” (my term) - a corn husk under their feet to show they are not interested in your conversation and a place so nearly flat, if you stand on a few telephone books, you can see several counties (I’ve passed through it like many others). Evans is a cancer survivor and is aged beyond his years because of his medical reg This short book is brilliant and hilarious. It’s the story of one Matthew Evans, who escapes the drudgery of Muscatine, Iowa, population not a lot, and a place where farmers “cob-roll” (my term) - a corn husk under their feet to show they are not interested in your conversation and a place so nearly flat, if you stand on a few telephone books, you can see several counties (I’ve passed through it like many others). Evans is a cancer survivor and is aged beyond his years because of his medical regimen. He doesn’t escape to Des Moines, Iowa, but to China to get a kiss from a long-standing internet belle and maybe lose his virginity. That first experience turns out to be a disaster. In spite of the protestations of his mother: “They’ll shoot you. The moment you get off that airplane they’ll shoot you. Or they’ll arrest you. They’re Communists, And Communists hate Americans!”, he gets in a plane to China. Matthew Evans is a fascinating character but isn’t particularly likeable and would be uncomfortable to have dinner with or in his case, date with the many Chinese lovers he eventually finds. In the end the reader cannot but help have some sort of sympathy or empathy with him. He talks too much, is gimpy, ugly, and is aged beyond his years but there is something intangibly fascinating about him. He learns very quickly to become street smart, learns to win at chess in one night: in fact so smart that he secures two teaching appointments at leading Chinese universities before being discovered as a fraud. Before that is a catalogue of misadventures and Evans learns how to survive Chinese chicanery, to avoid bureaucracy, to sleep rough, and becomes adept at old-fashioned scrounging. He always seems just one step ahead of the law. He even crossed illegally into Myanmar- twice! In the end it’s not the police that catches up with Evans, it’s his own incompetence for which he always has an answer but never an angry excuse. He tries Hong Kong and Macao as a persona non grata in mainland China, but his adventures lead to similar destitution. He implodes. His former internet girlfriends, of over five years, run out of patience with bailing him out. The end is tantalizing. The author leaves it open to the imagination what happens next. Mom’s got steak and creamed corn on the table on a flight back to Iowa or maybe a new adventure? This relates to 2010. Today the anti-hero, Evans, would not survive so long with new surveillance and improved scrutiny. In his time, he was a survivor twice! Tom Carter is an author who deserves attention and this book would make an excellent movie, especially with Hanks as Evans-Gump.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rob Burton

    >>>>>>>>>>I was sent this book as an ARC by the publishers - Thank you. <<<<<<<<<<<< I have been living and working in China for the past seven years and I am still here. As I mention in the half way review our eponymous hero of this biographical narrative is a broad stereotype of many of the expats I have met in many a insalubrious bar here in China, Thailand and so on. He is the sort fellow that gets the rest of us a bad name in the teaching fraternity as he proposes himself as a teacher but ca >>>>>>>>>>I was sent this book as an ARC by the publishers - Thank you. <<<<<<<<<<<< I have been living and working in China for the past seven years and I am still here. As I mention in the half way review our eponymous hero of this biographical narrative is a broad stereotype of many of the expats I have met in many a insalubrious bar here in China, Thailand and so on. He is the sort fellow that gets the rest of us a bad name in the teaching fraternity as he proposes himself as a teacher but can barely string two coherent sentences together in front of a class. One American of my acquaintance, creatively named after a river, Hudson, was the personification of the former sentence. At the training school, in front of precocious six year olds, he simply froze. He was on a tourist visa and trying his luck as a teacher. Another, was often so drunk he would pass out in the taxi home, or crash his scooter adding to the scars on his face, but unlike Matthew he had rich parents back home who would fund his medical bills and police fines. Another, we called Rikipedia - because he always knew better than anyone else around the table, but was so severely lacking in social graces that he spent most of his time in the bar staring into his laptop. How he managed to snare himself a Chinese girlfriend is beyond me. Of course he left her and their dog in the lurch to return to the bosom of his family, he had one of those American names that stinks of money -- Rikipedia Something III. This is how Tom Carter categorises the type of bar fly American you will find in China (and elsewhere in Asia) "[symbolises]... the wretched, white trash wanderlusting that has come to define the new generation of young, restless, socially unmoored American expatriates fleeing to the Middle Kingdom [China] ... whose shores are now teeming with Western refuse such as Evans" So Matthew Evans is not a new phenomenon, nor a surprise for those of us who have spent any time in China. In fact, in the 1970's I met a similar American travelling through Africa. On the banks of the Zambezi River, in Botswana at the Zambian border. This ragged and dirty guy turned up. He told us he had been travelling through Africa disclaiming Shakespeare on street corners for cash. He got arrested. He asked us to contact the American embassy which we did. We also saw him being beaten by the guards in a compound. But apparently when we called the American embassy they already knew of his plight and were sending a helicopter... I want to believe he was some sort of CIA spook - it was the mid-70's after all. So back to the story. Not so far fetched as to think Tom Carter was making it up - why would he when the ground is so fertile with these sorts of characters? No doubt, like me, Tom has met many many of these types chancing their luck in China, not believing that the laws of the land actually need to be followed and squealing in disbelief, like Matthew does, when things don't go their way, just by dint of having a white face and being a foreigner. So an entertaining read. I would have liked an epilogue detailing what's happening to the po' boy now, back in Iowa? Or still drifting, following the hobo trail to who knows where? But to be honest most of us in China right now have no plans for the future and make it up as we go along, just like Matthew had to do. An enjoyable read. Thanks.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra

    I received a complimentary copy. First of all, shout out to Matthew, wow you have done amazing things. The book has stories that capture the moments in almost picturesque quality. Taking time to relax and get into the chapters is a great idea.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Arthur Meursault

    The city of Muscatine in Iowa carries the sobriquet of “Pearl of the Mississippi”. Once famous for its then-revolutionary manufacture of pearl-like buttons created from freshwater mussels during the dawn of the twentieth century, Muscatine has little else in its history to proclaim other than a brief stay in 1855 by Mark Twain who contributed to the local Muscatine Journal and declared the city’s summer sunsets to have no equal. With a population of approximately 24,000 people, Muscatine is the The city of Muscatine in Iowa carries the sobriquet of “Pearl of the Mississippi”. Once famous for its then-revolutionary manufacture of pearl-like buttons created from freshwater mussels during the dawn of the twentieth century, Muscatine has little else in its history to proclaim other than a brief stay in 1855 by Mark Twain who contributed to the local Muscatine Journal and declared the city’s summer sunsets to have no equal. With a population of approximately 24,000 people, Muscatine is the quintessential small mid-western town that is so often stated to be the truest representation of the United States by both its supporters and detractors. Any reader of The Wizard of Oz will know that the larger city of Kansas in neighbouring Missouri was chosen by L. Frank Baum as America’s archetype for his heroine Dorothy to hail from during her journeys through the topsy-turvy land of Oz. However, in these strange times when the yellow brick road is built from numbers rather than gold, the tragedy of modern America can perhaps be found more in smaller forgotten towns like Muscatine where even dreams of escape fail and die. Twain’s iconic American hero Huckleberry Finn embarked on an odyssey that embodied the spirit of independence and the possibility of adventure that awaited pioneering young men during the age of the antebellum south. Young men seeking new frontiers were once considered the foundation of America’s story before Ellis Island was retconned into the Union’s founding myth. Tom Carter’s new chapbook An American Bum in China: The Bumblingly Brilliant Escapades of Expatriate Matthew Evans also features a young pioneer from Muscatine heading off to faraway lands, but the reality of that adventure for an American in the 21st century is wildly different from Huck’s scrapes along the Mississippi. Tom Carter is a long-term American expat who has settled in China and has published previous works about the country including the photography book China: Portrait of a People and Unsavory Elements – a collection of tales of foreign ne’er-do-wells getting up to all sorts of mischief in the Middle Kingdom. For his latest work An American Bum in China, Carter has chosen to relate the tale of real-life son-of-Muscatine Matthew Evans whom he first encountered during one of his book promotion tours. What follows is an often-hilarious tale of misadventure as we follow Evans through increasingly worsening situations in China, but one that always carries an undercurrent of tragedy, sadness, and a sense of decline in our way of life. Though ostensibly the tale of one man’s spiral into overseas homelessness, the book serves as a fascinating insight into how small-town America has been ravaged by the gods of the global economy. The protagonist of this true-life story is one Matthew Evans whom we meet in the first chapter illegally crossing the Chinese-Burmese border through a hole in a fence in a misguided attempt to sell his American passport for $15,000 dollars. Evans – a bumbling, uncharismatic figure who almost certainly sits somewhere high on the autism spectrum – has reached this desperate situation after a series of events that are all too common in this atomized age of anomie. He is a lonely individual – “brimming with hormones and emotions and bodily fluids that can drive lonely young men mad” – who first comes to China after making contact with a Chinese girl on an online forum dedicated to anime. Yet he is quickly rebuffed when the girl realizes her new-found American friend is no dashing figure clad in designer clothing and she undergoes a swift transformation into lesbianism. Instead, Evans is more the product of a forgotten America where economic prospects are dim and what little industry there is proves toxic to its future generations. This toxicity is quite literal in the case of Evans. As the author explains, Muscatine has “always had an issue with waste management”, an issue that led to a landfill being constructed outside the city where the garbage of nearby factories, mills and mines was dumped. It was upon this landfill where Evans’ elementary school was later built. It is no surprise what happens next: “In the year 2000, Matthew Evans along with at least eight other students and teachers attending Washington Elementary School fell ill and were subsequently diagnosed with cancers. Several female teachers came down with breast cancer. Students like Evans developed leukemia. Some died.” This type of tale of chemical poisoning, child cancer and nefarious collaboration between industry and government is viewed more as a product of China, but the toxicity that put Evans in a hospital bed for his entire seventh and eighth grade and leaves him with a limp for life happened right in America’s heartland. Spurned by his Asian Helen, the rest of An American Bum in China chronicles Evans’ odyssey through a number of miserable jobs, stints in Chinese prison for overstaying his visa, and homelessness on the streets of various Chinese cities. We are used to reading stories in the mainstream press of illegal foreign workers being exploited by ruthless American employers, hounded by ICE, and scrambling around the branches of remittance companies for money. The truth is, more and more Americans are finding themselves in this situation – not lured by adventure, but driven by circumstance. Possession of an American passport offers little protection or benefit to Evans other than the prospect of selling it to shady Burmese businessmen for $15,000 dollars. At one point in the book, Evans – having failed in his attempt to sell his passport but having succeeded in losing it – is forced to hitchhike to the American consulate in Chengdu in order to procure a new passport. In China, he is unable to book a hotel room or even buy a train ticket without his precious little blue book. Upon arrival at the consulate, he is greeted with a unique form of American bureaucracy and is turned away from the gates of his country’s consulate a further number of times as he fails to possess the correct police report paperwork, the correct processing receipt, or the consulate is closed for a public holiday. Even when he hands in the correct paperwork, he is forced to sleep in a McDonalds while he waits out the weeks required to process his new passport. No longer does the American government send gunboats to foreign shores to provide assistance to its citizens in peril; instead it closes its doors to them, both home and abroad. China, by contrast, likes to demonstrate its growing influence by threatening to boycott entire countries as tourist destinations to the financial might of its tour groups, even when its citizens are clearly in the wrong like when trying to gatecrash a Swedish hotel. An American Bum in China can be read as a comic novel – one where we laugh at the increasingly dire situations the protagonist finds himself in. More than a wry smile is raised when we read about how Evans’, in desperation, resorted to standing topless outside a Macau casino with the words “rub the lucky foreigner’s tummy” scrawled in Chinese characters held aloft on a piece of cardboard in an attempt to beg money from wealthy Chinese gamblers. Yet it can be – and should be – read as more of a tragedy. The tragedy of Americans without prospects who, as Patrick Buchanan would have put it, have been left behind by globalist trade deals, open-border immigration policies and foreign interventionism. These are the younger generation of Americans whose current and future prospects are a pale imitation of what their parents could enjoy. In Evans’ case, his mother and father were able to build a prosperous life for themselves by enrolling in Muscatine Community College and working in a local tire-retreading company. For the son, two years at Muscatine Community gifted him a Computer Networking Certificate of Achievement – “a poor man’s computer science degree” valid only in Muscatine – leaving him without the prospect of a job or potential home ownership. Aside from Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, one of Twain’s other great fictional creations was the Connecticut Yankee who travelled back in time to King Arthur’s court. If we could recreate the Yankee’s time-travelling teleportation but instead whisk an Iowan from the 1960s or 70s to present-day America and show them the story of people like Matthew Evans – what would they think? How were the roles of America and China reversed? What caused the college madness and political upheaval of China’s Cultural Revolution to be transplanted onto American shores while the economic growth and entrepreneurism of post-war USA moved from Detroit to Dongguan? Where did America’s spirit go? I applaud Tom Carter for publishing a work that is not only a fun and whimsical read about one of America’s oddest pioneers, but also a tale that inadvertently captures the zeitgeist of our age. Carter’s prose is deliberately homely and anachronistic with its chapter summaries and the occasional antiquated choice of word, and by doing so he directly holds up Matthew Evans and his disappointing China adventures as a modern mirror opposite to his earlier, and more optimistic, fictional counterparts.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Isham Cook

    There is a lazy, hidebound assumption that people who work as English teachers abroad lack the qualifications to hack out a career back home, and it's the only job the "losers" and "bottom feeders" can find. But it's a hackneyed cliché, one that obscures the real class of losers. Think about it. To be able to go abroad, all by yourself, is an impressive feat. You need, for starters, to have a certain imaginative capacity, a conception that there are other countries in the world, and that it's po There is a lazy, hidebound assumption that people who work as English teachers abroad lack the qualifications to hack out a career back home, and it's the only job the "losers" and "bottom feeders" can find. But it's a hackneyed cliché, one that obscures the real class of losers. Think about it. To be able to go abroad, all by yourself, is an impressive feat. You need, for starters, to have a certain imaginative capacity, a conception that there are other countries in the world, and that it's possible to visit them and even live in them. This is more than can be said for many Americans. On my occasional trips back home, I am thrust into a sharply different reality. There is a dim awareness of my just having returned from somewhere, though I no longer entertain any expectation I will be asked about my home of the past twenty-five years. Except for: "Beijing? Where's that again, Lebanon?" The conversation then reverts to the insular world of personal problems inhabited by family and friends. Then there's the smarts required to plan a trip: how to apply for a passport and whether you even qualify for one, and a visa, whatever that is. You need spare money, enough at least for international plane fare. For those seeking to find work abroad, you need the savvy to know how to procure a fake diploma and to pass for a college-educated person in your job application, not to mention where to apply for a job. To be able to do all of this requires a mental sophistication above and beyond a great many people. Yes, people back home, people around you, the real losers. Tom Carter's An American Bum in China is the real-life tale of what happens when one has just enough native wit to make it to China but not enough to hold down a job. It is saying something, however, that Matthew Evans is able to wiggle his way into the country not once but five times (albeit twice illegally) and live out his days there in the most dramatic fashion. While it's painful to watch as the universities which hired him in turn, Nanjing Agriculture University and East China Normal University, realize all too slowly Evans had faked his academic credentials and had never taught a class in his life, nonetheless we cannot but admire his nerve, or should I say verve, in pulling off the ruse. Otherwise mostly jobless in China, arrested for vagrancy, penniless, sleeping in hotel lobbies, McDonald's restaurants and ATM booths while subsisting on ketchup packets, losing his passport while attempting to sell it in Burma after sneaking through a border fence, the guy indeed has incredible staying power and an unfathomable knack for living on the edge. We begin to root for Evans as little acts of sympathy enable him to extend his misery in the country a few more days without perishing -- thirty dollars wired by his grandmother here, girls met online throwing a few coins his way there -- though he'd have been better off back in a Chinese jail where he at least would have been fed before once again being deported directly back to Muscatine, Iowa, instead of sneaking over to Hong Kong and mooching off umbrella protesters and begging on a Macao sidewalk, after being spat out of the Mainland once and for all. Weeks without showering or a change of clothes are minor inconveniences; what's more enlightening is how many days one can survive without food before mental disorientation from extreme ketogenesis sets in. I suspect many readers, U.S. readers in particular, will regard Matthew Evans as a disgrace. Carter's engaging narrative, at once wry and affectionately told, has a built-in liability, its distasteful subject matter, which may keep book reviewers at arm's length as well. To wallow in such a life and have it decked out as literature will not gain much sympathy from those of Protestant work-ethic heritage (those who read books anyway). Evans stands for everything people of all creeds, persuasions and lifestyles -- from Christians to anarchists, all whose calling is the purposeful life -- are mortally against. Even the publisher betrays uneasiness with its subject matter, gathering up the dirt and the mess within the confines of a neat and tidy cover design and carefully spaced rustic font. The fact that hordes of people do live like this, like tramps and bums, makes the narrative all the more disturbing -- for serving as a mirror and commentary on the darker side of American capitalism. John Dobson's homespun illustrations nicely complement the text, but I would have preferred to see the designer take a more roughshod approach, more fitting to the content, one imitative, say, of a torn and frayed cover and stains and splotches on the interior pages, what a book would end up looking like in Evans' hands after a few days, now sitting uncomfortably on your coffee table. Still, I have a different take on things. I see Evans' role and agenda as quite pointed and intentional, almost poetic and celebratory, even if he himself could hardly articulate it: that of comic protagonist, jester, in the staid court of Communist China. Evans caught the tail end of an era when lowlife expats were allowed in and indulged to a degree, before being spat out. He took this project to its logical extreme, seeing how far it was possible to push things, how low he could go, and to this extent was a pioneer, of a very special sort.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Roseann Lake

    From Muscatine to Shanghai, with stops at the Burmese border, multiple McDonald's and a few jail cells, this delightful book about the incredible misadventures of Matthew Evans is a breezy, playfully written read. On the surface, it's the modern tale of an innocent fella from Iowa who seeks freedom and adventure in Asia but also serves as a more poignant reminder that "economic refugees blowing in on the trade winds will find no welcome glowing from China's ancient lands." His capacity to surviv From Muscatine to Shanghai, with stops at the Burmese border, multiple McDonald's and a few jail cells, this delightful book about the incredible misadventures of Matthew Evans is a breezy, playfully written read. On the surface, it's the modern tale of an innocent fella from Iowa who seeks freedom and adventure in Asia but also serves as a more poignant reminder that "economic refugees blowing in on the trade winds will find no welcome glowing from China's ancient lands." His capacity to survive is impressive, and despite being perennially broke and sometimes full of lice, his character is endearing and his timing uncanny. The book and its ending are especially thought-provoking at a time when Hong Kong continues to fight for its freedom and democracy in many other parts of the world has seen better days

  11. 4 out of 5

    Martha Ramirez

    This was such a sweet, fun read. Matthew Evans is basically a real-life Forrest Gump who finds himself in a bizarre assortment of adventures, mishaps and self-inflicted predicaments over the course of five years in China. This laugh-out-loud narrative concludes during the 2014 Hong Kong protests, which is no laughing matter...except for the fact that Evans is there for all the wrong reasons. Biographer Tom Carter is a brilliant storyteller, weaving in humor with insightful first-hand perspective This was such a sweet, fun read. Matthew Evans is basically a real-life Forrest Gump who finds himself in a bizarre assortment of adventures, mishaps and self-inflicted predicaments over the course of five years in China. This laugh-out-loud narrative concludes during the 2014 Hong Kong protests, which is no laughing matter...except for the fact that Evans is there for all the wrong reasons. Biographer Tom Carter is a brilliant storyteller, weaving in humor with insightful first-hand perspectives of Chinese culture and Sino-American politics. Only 130 pages, I breezed through this in one Saturday afternoon.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Quincy Carroll

    A common explanation for the dearth of quality fiction set in modern China is that nothing invented by the mind of a foreigner could ever possibly compare to those everyday stories being told out in the streets. The country is a complex, dynamic, at times bewildering place, and in the thirteen years since the release of Peter Hessler’s River Town, audiences the world over have continued to exhibit a sustained appetite for factual, firsthand accounts of life in the Middle Kingdom. During that sam A common explanation for the dearth of quality fiction set in modern China is that nothing invented by the mind of a foreigner could ever possibly compare to those everyday stories being told out in the streets. The country is a complex, dynamic, at times bewildering place, and in the thirteen years since the release of Peter Hessler’s River Town, audiences the world over have continued to exhibit a sustained appetite for factual, firsthand accounts of life in the Middle Kingdom. During that same time, writer after writer has tossed his/her hat into the ring, to varying degrees of success, but there has been a noticeable lack of attention paid to what some might argue to be the most curious subject of all: the laowai himself (gender-specific language intentional). This is by no means an appeal for more navel-gazing memoirs about Asia as perceived through the eyes of the West, but rather a call for more stories critically examining the attitudes and motivations of those who have come to make China their home. Tom Carter’s recent work, An American Bum in China, a true-to-life account of Iowan Matthew Evans’s “bumblingly brilliant escapades” from Guangdong to Shanghai to Yunnan to Hong Kong, tackles these themes head-on, and upon reading, even the most ardent defenders of fiction will be forced to admit: you just can’t make this stuff up. Although the term laowai isn’t a pejorative per se, anyone who has spent extended time in China will pick up on the connotations when it’s used a certain way: that hapless, dopey Westerner, usually male and rarely, if ever, able to speak Mandarin, who approaches the country and its culture with ignorance, condescension, and a tendency to blame. This is surely too harsh of an introduction to give Matthew Evans, who attracts (and rightfully deserves) reader sympathy at the beginning of Carter’s book—underprivileged and abandoned by his father, he is diagnosed with leukemia at the age of thirteen, spends most of seventh and eighth grade in the hospital, then returns to school with thinning hair and a lifelong limp, only to be ostracized by his peers—but as the narrative progresses and Evans moves to China as a young man, his behavior grows increasingly difficult to tolerate as he plays into the FILTH (Fail in London, Try Hong Kong) stereotype: forging his work credentials, trying to date his students, and taking handouts at every turn. Indeed, there is a page-turning quality to the book—a credit to the author—based on the simple, foreboding question of OK, just how bad is this going to get? Pretty bad, is the answer. Evans is indigent throughout much of the story, squatting in hotel lobbies, vacant stairwells, ATM vestibules, and 24-hour McDonald’s. He’s deported, yet somehow finds his way back into the country. He loses his passport. He goes a full month without showering. At one point, he’s even thrown into jail for living on an expired visa. In each instance, he relies on the benevolence of strangers—and often his family—to bail him out (yes, even one as wretched as Matthew Evans benefits from a certain amount of privilege in China), and although the choices he makes to get himself into these situations in the first place are exasperating enough, what is perhaps most upsetting is his inability or unwillingness to change, making the same mistakes over and over again, often just moments after averting some previous, similar disaster. He is his own worst enemy, and like a roadside pileup, it’s hard to look away. But he’s also stoic, diffident, and self-deprecating at times, specifically during his interactions with the author, who appears as a character in the book, making it difficult to judge him too quickly, even if he does prove more “bumbling” than “brilliant” in the end. Carter adopts a folksy, Mark Twain-like tone throughout the story, equating Evans to a sort of vagabond antihero, à la Huckleberry Finn, which, while certainly plausible in the context of his disadvantaged upbringing and lawless jaunts across China, feels stretched and inappropriate by the book’s conclusion, as not once does Evans ever perform a morally correct, albeit misguided, action, something one character, Buchanan, a mutual acquaintance of the subject and author, identifies as a “failing to differentiate between right and wrong.” This muddled impression bleeds over into the narrator’s attitude toward Evans, which feels inconsistent at times, oscillating between disapproval and understanding, perhaps due to the fact that Carter feels a certain measure of responsibility over his protagonist. (Toward the beginning, it’s revealed that his work of photography, China: Portrait of a People, was part of what motivated Evans to move abroad.) While not a major impediment to reader enjoyment, this apparent hedging on the part of the author does serve to detract from one of the book’s more salient points: that the power dynamic has shifted, and “foreign detritus,” such as Matthew Evans, epitomize (or as he would say, “persananify”) the, if not exactly tragic, then surely inevitable, nature of the West’s decline. In this regard, Carter does an admirable job of blending the macro with the micro, and once again, fact proves stranger than fiction. Almost uncannily so. Evans’s hometown, Muscatine, Iowa, a rural community on the banks of the Mississippi, or “the American equivalent of China’s Yangtze River though only half the Yangtze’s length,” represents everything that an economically resurgent China is not: in recession, decimated by methamphetamine use, and generally unremarkable in just about every way. Except one. If the city’s name sounds familiar (though it probably doesn’t), that’s because it accommodated a delegation of Chinese agronomists in the eighties, including Xi Jinping, the future General Secretary of the CPC, himself. Years later, returning to Muscatine as one of the world’s most powerful men, Xi is quoted as saying, “To me, you are America,” a backhanded form of glad-handing that might as well have been made directly in reference to Evans. Where American Bum succeeds is in its ability to humanize these larger global issues, and while it will be a challenge for many readers to maintain sympathy for the protagonist throughout the book, many will also be left wondering if that was an intentional message on the part of the author, as Chinese patience for Evans and those like him has perhaps finally run out.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sunny Zhang

    Despite the main character Evans coming off more of a caricature than a real person, his misadventures are strangely relatable as a traveller if you knock it back a few levels. Evans becomes increasingly less likeable throughout, but you still have to respect his perseverance and drive to make something interesting out of his otherwise doomed to be ordinary mid-American life. In some ways Evans is like a less cool Kerouac, and Carters narrations of his shitty life humorously (and maybe unintenti Despite the main character Evans coming off more of a caricature than a real person, his misadventures are strangely relatable as a traveller if you knock it back a few levels. Evans becomes increasingly less likeable throughout, but you still have to respect his perseverance and drive to make something interesting out of his otherwise doomed to be ordinary mid-American life. In some ways Evans is like a less cool Kerouac, and Carters narrations of his shitty life humorously (and maybe unintentionally) becomes a satire on entitled white expats and the disappearing American dream.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Carl Yerington

    Not a typical white guy... Interesting story.... I live in Muscatine, my daughter in law is from Hong Kong... I have a Turkish son-in-law.... reading this, I felt that he probably didn't amount to a pile of s##t to begin with. I didn't feel any sympathy for him... one can go to other countries and represent Americans well. But this guy, I would definitely say that he fit the title...American Bum. Certainly got a kick out reading about his exploits in Hong Kong. I think he could go to any country Not a typical white guy... Interesting story.... I live in Muscatine, my daughter in law is from Hong Kong... I have a Turkish son-in-law.... reading this, I felt that he probably didn't amount to a pile of s##t to begin with. I didn't feel any sympathy for him... one can go to other countries and represent Americans well. But this guy, I would definitely say that he fit the title...American Bum. Certainly got a kick out reading about his exploits in Hong Kong. I think he could go to any country and be a bum...American Bum in London: in Paris: Vladivostok, Washington D.C.... I guess I'm relatively happy here in Muscatine, been here 80 years...

  15. 5 out of 5

    B. Cheng

    A fun, quick read that is unbelievable as non-fiction. As an expat in China, you hear lots of stories about different slackers who've found a way to survive one way or the other, Matthew's idiot savant nature & his struggles just seem unbelievable. The fact that he's from Xi's "adopted" American town adds to it. A fun, quick read that is unbelievable as non-fiction. As an expat in China, you hear lots of stories about different slackers who've found a way to survive one way or the other, Matthew's idiot savant nature & his struggles just seem unbelievable. The fact that he's from Xi's "adopted" American town adds to it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Spoiler Alert: (view spoiler)[Was hoping for some kind of happy ending for the dude. But I guess it just wasn't meant to be. China had every right to reject this loser. That the author compared him to Huck Finn is beyond me. I gave it a 3 review only because the author writes well. Evans had nothing to contribute really to make him interesting. It's sad because it all started in Iowa where beyond his control his life went downhill and that is the real tragedy about this story that the real culpr Spoiler Alert: (view spoiler)[Was hoping for some kind of happy ending for the dude. But I guess it just wasn't meant to be. China had every right to reject this loser. That the author compared him to Huck Finn is beyond me. I gave it a 3 review only because the author writes well. Evans had nothing to contribute really to make him interesting. It's sad because it all started in Iowa where beyond his control his life went downhill and that is the real tragedy about this story that the real culprits making this loser the way he was were not made responsible. Monsanto?? DUH. Made him contract cancer? How about a story about that?? (hide spoiler)]

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael Cannings

  18. 4 out of 5

    T

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sunny Zhang

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andy

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nishant Kumar

  23. 5 out of 5

    Blacksmith Books

  24. 4 out of 5

    James Vachowski

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alex Saiciuc

  26. 5 out of 5

    Shaun

  27. 4 out of 5

    Linda Thomas

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  29. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

  30. 5 out of 5

    Richard Penman

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