Diving Deep into China with Isham Cook “At The Teahouse Café”

At The Teahouse Cafe, 15 essays by Isham Cook, delves into East Asian Culture and a number of related issues and topics.

Isham Cook has been based in China since 1994, more than twenty years. Writing with the perspective of an American expatriate who has lived in East Asia that long offers readers a view from someone on the ground, and I think that Cook does not disappoint.

The topics of his 15 essay range, for instance, from China’s Great Firewall, the complexity and meaning of Chinese “face”, music, China’s education system to the aversive racism of the term “yellow fever”—something that I’ve also been accused of. Cook goes into detail of why men are attracted to specific women of any race, and I think he is right.

And for his essay on The Chinese University, I Hi-Lited: “The problem with the Chinese university is not the people, it is the system in control, which paralyzes, demotivates and demoralizes.”

The reason why I Hi-Lited that one phrase while reading the book was because it described what is happening in the United States. Since 2001 and President G. W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, and then President Obama’s attempt to seize control of America’s public schools with the so-called Common Core State Standards and the high stakes test meant to rank teachers, fire them and close public schools, that quote describes what is happening in the U.S.

Isham Cook At The Teahouse Cafe

You have been gone too long, Isham. The U.S is under attack by a flock of oligarchs and autocrats that might even shock or impress the Chinese Communist Party because of their tactics to mislead and fool as many people as possible in the U.S. In fact, while China is struggling to lift as many of its people out of poverty as possible, what’s going on in the U.S. is increasing poverty at a frightening pace, especially among children.

Anyway, Isham Cook delves deep into many topics about China, it’s culture and people based on his own experiences living there and interacting with the Chinese. He discusses the bad and the good and doesn’t spare the United States either, and I think that is a good thing because far too many ignorant Americans think the U.S. can do no wrong.

My own interaction with the Chinese pales in comparison. My wife is Chinese, her family is Chinese—mostly born and raised in China during the Mao era—and I’ve been to China nine or 10 times but never lived or worked there, and my last trip was in 2008 when the air pollution in Shanghai contributed to a sinus and respiratory infection that sent me flying home several weeks earlier than planned to recover.

I recommend At The Teahouse Cafe for anyone who wants to get a serious, intellectual dose of the real China from an American who has lived and worked there as long as Isham Cook has. This book should open your eyes as long as your thinking isn’t a closed, dead-end street.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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2 Responses to Diving Deep into China with Isham Cook “At The Teahouse Café”

  1. James Wilson Jr says:

    Mr. Lofthouse

    You are right about the political driven agendas in the United States.People seemed to accept this as they have been used to being told how great they are compared to others and these agendas have provided this utopia.

    At 77 years old I have lived and worked all but 20 years of my adult life in both Asia and the Near East with visits often back to the United States.The people of Asia that I worked and shared with seem to have more of a knowledge of their history of struggle and know that in patience lies gain. I have found that with most Asians I can discuss religion, politics,history, culture, or philosophy learning many things and points of views. In The United States I can’t do this as most Americans, with their narrow view of the world, can not or do not want to understand anything outside their own realm.

    • Agreed and even that unique American narrow view of the world is divided up into foolish, ignorant, obsessive, radical political/religious camps. For instance, the U.S. has the evangelical fundamentalist Christians who go around spreading the false knowledge that humans walked with the dinosaurs and all life began 10,000 years ago in one day when God made it happen and nothing, NOTHING, will budge that thinking. About half of the population in the U.S. believes this hokum.

      Then the U.S. has the libertarians, the tea party, the neo-liberals, who worship at the alter of greed is good, the neoconservatives, who believe in the noble lie to fool the people to achieve their agendas (of course they decide what lie is noble), the white supremacists embodied by someone like Donald Trump who calls all Latino immigrants rapists and wants to revoke the citizenship of any citizen who was born here but had parents who arrived illegally.

      Then there is the ignorant idiot who goes by the name of Sarah Palin—-the tea party mob loves her ignorance. Just this week she came out demanding that all immigrants speak American. She couldn’t even say English, but English is not an original American language. There are hundreds of original native American languages from Apache, to Navajo to Cherokee, etc., and I think Spanish and French arrived in North America before the English language arrived from the UK. Even Russian arrived on the West coast before anyone speaking English showed up.

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