From Tea to Coffee

The Journey of an Educated Youth

Non-Fiction - Memoir
205 Pages
Reviewed on 11/15/2021
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Author Biography

Starting off as a single "Educated Youth," Cheng Wang went from no secondary education in Mao's era to becoming a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cincinnati; to go from no formal computer training to becoming the Principal Member of Tech Staff at a major telecom company; and lastly, from having no English writing experience to becoming a published author. As illogical as his life's course may seem, within the pages are the steps he followed each time he reached a crossroad.

From a young Communist ideologue working in the field in a secluded Inner Mongolia village for re-education to becoming an astute western observer and author, Cheng Wang proves that anyone can persevere and overcome whatever obstacles that may stand in the way.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

From Tea to Coffee: The Journey of an Educated Youth is a work of non-fiction in the memoir subgenre. It is suitable for the general reading audience and was penned by author Cheng Wang. The book tells the author's life story as he experiences life in China under the regime of Chairman Mao, through to his doctorate earned in the USA, leading up to his work to become a published author. Across two continents with vastly different cultures and many years of experiencing both, the author explores some of the compatibilities between the two vast powers and works to answer the question: what’s stopping the two rivals from becoming staunch allies?

This is a highly compelling story of a real person who has been a citizen of two very different cultures in their life. What was most interesting about the writing was that there was a lack of confrontation when discussing the two cultures, which is unusual considering how they are usually depicted in the media as opposing forces in the world. Perhaps it takes the perspective of someone who has actually lived a life in both cultures to notice the similarities and areas of compatibility between the two forces, a perspective that Cheng Wang brings to the table in this thoughtful discussion on his own life and accomplishments. Throughout this book, real credence is given to the idea that these two different nations could have enough common ground to form a powerful friendship. As such, I recommend From Tea to Coffee to any reader with an interest in exploring cultural ideas.

Emma Megan

From Tea to Coffee: The Journey of an Educated Youth by Cheng Wang is a riveting memoir that recounts the experience of a single "Educated Youth" and his reactions to profound political and cultural changes, differences in time, and the people of all creeds, races, and origins he encountered throughout his life. Cheng Wang recaptures in his memoir the zeitgeist of 1960s and 1970s China when sixteen million "Educated Youths," including him, were sent to the countryside for re-education. He has put half a century of his life into words to provide remarkable insights into the repercussions of the Cultural Revolution, a peculiar time when knowledge was considered useless, and to describe how his own family was brutally affected by the Cultural Revolution and how his first taste of what a Western economic recession was like, among other things.

From Tea to Coffee: The Journey of an Educated Youth by Cheng Wang is a unique, engaging debut memoir, beautifully written, about the author's journey from an inexperienced and uneducated young man to ​becoming a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cincinnati, a Principal Member of Tech Staff at AT&T, and lastly a published author. Cheng Wang writes fondly and with modesty about his personal progress and inner growth while showing why both sides of the Pacific became his home. He is an inspiration as he reveals his thirst to improve his life constantly despite the odds. ​From Tea to Coffee by Cheng Wang is a moving memoir recounting how the Cultural Revolution changed the author's life and his family's lives forever. It's also a profoundly essential read, very well written by a Chinese American author for the Western reader.

Joel R. Dennstedt

“Actual lives flow more like a gentle stream, as opposed to the torrent experienced for two hours sitting in a theater.” This quietly potent line from Cheng Wang’s quietly potent memoir, From Tea to Coffee, expresses something quite true about human life. An autobiography is better sipped quietly in later years than drunk boastfully when young. The challenge, however, is to recover that peculiar intensity felt within each prior moment and to recapture the essence of one’s personal perspective at the time. Cheng Wang was a Chinese youth during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, yet a profoundly insightful observer of his own conditioning, later an accomplished participant in American culture and he excels at both. The result is a fascinating piece of literature exploring the vast similarities and differences between peoples divided by more than just an ocean.

Uniquely qualified, Cheng Wang offers penetrating insights and visceral appreciation for two distinctive cultural alternatives. He has lived and imbibed completely the flavors of both. From Tea to Coffee introduces readers to the rarely glimpsed and mostly misunderstood social phenomenon known as The Cultural Revolution – when intellectual grooming was forsaken for the ideals of agrarian inculturation. Contrary to intrinsic Western indoctrination, such grounding was not just a despot’s attempt at political control, but also a profoundly enlightening and practical experience for the young. Perhaps imbalanced, and therefore needing future societal adjustment, the historical transformation did produce individuals like Cheng Wang, who now invests our own understanding of societal imbalance with lessons learned by one who knows. Just so, we become immersed in our own life-altering streams.