What Am I Reading – Chapter Twenty-Five

Hi Everyone,

It’s been awhile since I showed you the last chapter. I finished a number of books like The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell, and I started a new title not too long ago that I’d like to share with all of you.

American Shaolin – Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New China by Matthew Polly is a coming-of-age story of one American’s quest to become a kung fu master at China’s legendary Shaolin Temple. When he was young, Matthew was scrawny and tormented by bullies at school. He dreamed of one day journeying to China to become the toughest fighter like Caine in his favorite TV series Kung Fu. While in college, he decided that the time had come to pursue his dream. Despite the objections from his parents, he dropped out of Princeton to spend two years training with the legendary sect of monks who invented kung fu and Zen Buddhism. When he landed in China, he expected an isolated citadel populated by supernatural ascetics that he’d seen in countless chop-socky films. Instead, he discovered a tacky tourist trap run by Communist party hacks. Nonetheless, the monks still trained in the rigorous age-old fighting forms. As Matthew became more knowledgeable about China and kung fu, he would come to represent Shaolin Temple in challenge matches and international competitions, and ultimately the monks would accept their new American initiate as close to one of their own as any Westerner had ever become.

I was a little worried at first since I rarely read nonfiction in bed. The last time I did that with So Anyway by John Cleese, I stayed up for hours. Luckily, I haven’t had that issue so far. This isn’t a bad thing. I read roughly a chapter a night and sleep afterwards. I can still enjoy it and get plenty of shut-eye.

As for the memoir itself, it’s pretty good so far. Polly demonstrates his knowledge of China very well prior to arriving in that nation since he studied the language while at Princeton. I liked how he discovers more about the country beyond the classroom and the kung fu media. One scene that stood out to me was when he was at the rundown hotel, and the clerk was trying to get with him. He handles the situation like any naive foreigner would. I’m looking forward to reading more of this.

We have now come to the end of the twenty-fifth chapter of “What Am I Reading?”

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Published by emilymalek

I work at two public libraries in southeast Michigan, and I facilitate a book club for one of them. I also hold a Bachelor's degree in History and Theatre from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI; a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI; and a Graduate Certificate in Archival Administration also from Wayne. In my downtime, I love hanging out with friends, listening to music (like classic rock and K-pop), and watching shows like "Monty Python's Flying Circus"!

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