Review: Chaos and Grime

Chaos and Grime: A Year in the Life of a Chinese City


by Jacob Acerbi

The riveting true story of the transformation of a Chinese city and an American who finds himself stranded there.
A detailed chronicle of everyday life in modern China, a window into the lives of Chinese peasants and the foreigners with whom they fall in and out of romance, and an inspiring tale of courage and love, Chaos and Grime: A Year in the Life of a Chinese City takes you where no memoir has dared to go before now. This “shocking,” “disturbing,” and “Kafkaesque” real-life thriller pulls no punches in painting a complex portrait of contemporary China.
Jim is a young American scholar. In the summer he arrives in Wuhan, the heart of China on the Yangtze River. In this world of cement and corruption, of fraud and fickle women, his initial optimism gives way to a poignant series of devastating revelations about what really happens to China’s “leftover women” and how the authorities stop at nothing to try to prevent such knowledge from getting out.
An intensely personal story of understanding and connection, as well as an illumination of power relations in a society in flux, Chaos and Grime captures in exquisite detail the lives of those caught up in the currents of history as it occurs here and now.


3 out of 5

Chaos and Grime is an interesting read. It doesn’t read like your typical biography/memoir, more like a slice of life. It’s written in third person, but the people the story follows are interesting, and the story itself is fairly interesting. At times the pacing is a little slow, but overall it’s a smooth read. There were a lot of characters to keep track of, which could get confusing at times, but they were all so interesting I enjoyed reading about them. A good, interesting read.



About the Author

Jacob Acerbi (Russian: Иаков Иаковевич терпкеницын; Chinese: 晉智明) is an American biological scientist and bioethicist. His 2020 memoir about his life in the city of Wuhan, Chaos and Grime: A Year in the Life of a Chinese City, was banned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China almost immediately upon its release. The publication of the book, which explores coverups of crimes, among other things, coincided with the Communist Party’s and World Health Organization’s initial coverup of the COVID-19 Pandemic, which originated in Wuhan.