I’m so excited to post this review the very week of Shannon Young’s book launch for The Olympics Beat: A Spectator’s Memoir of Beijing (Kindle Edition, 2012). Young’s e-book is the length of a novella, but packs in all the essential elements of a full-length travel memoir.
As a college student at Colgate University in Upstate New York, Young wins a scholarship and uses the funds to study the impact of the Olympics on Beijing. So she and her father–who studied in Beijing in the 80s–head to the 2008 summer games for 10 days.
It’s been more than 20 years since I visited Beijing, but I felt like I was back there with them, hearing the cheers of the stadium, the beats of the drums, the lights from the opening ceremony.
Then there was the food.
Shannon and her dad ate everything! If you check out the photos on her website that correspond to the chapters in this book, you’ll see that the two of them didn’t shy from local dishes. At one meal, Shannon suggests they order bullfrog. While I consider myself to be an adventurous eater, I don’t think I would have chosen bullfrog when I was 20. I’m not even sure I would have tried it. As she writes, frog legs are one thing, but whole bullfrog is something entirely different. And it’s delicious!
It’s obvious that Young’s father has played an influential role in her love of travel and trying local dishes. Young grows up hearing about the marvels of real Chinese food from his days in Beijing. Her dad grew up in the Philippines, so felt right at home in Asia, sometimes to Shannon’s chagrin.
For instance, one day a hawker talks her father into joining an off the beaten path tour of the Great Wall. Shannon is wary of this tout, but her father thinks no harm will come to them. I can relate to that because I also traveled to Beijing with my father the summer between my junior and senior year of college. I was definitely the more cautious one, even though I’d already been to China twice before and it was my father’s first time.
The chapters that centered on the Olympics events were fun to read, too, especially when they watched fencing. As it turns out, Young is a fencer herself and had competed with folks who made the US Olympic team.
I very much enjoyed Young’s writing voice, and if you’d also like to hear her speak about The Olympics Beat, check out her recent interview with Stuart Beaton at http://rastous.podomatic.com/entry/2012-05-23T02_33_02-07_00. Her website also features videos about her writing process, which I’ve found to be very educational and reassuring.
With the 2012 summer Olympics just two months away, The Olympics Beat is a perfect prelude to London. Happy Reading!