BY MICHAEL STANAT
NEW JERSEY: HOMA AND SEKEY BOOKS, 2005
222 PAGES, ISBN 1931907250, HARDBACK
Youth under the age of twenty-five make up roughly 39 percent of China’s population, yet sources on Chinese children are few and far between. Books like James Watson’s Golden Arches East, Jun Jing’s Feeding China’s Little Emperors, and Vanessa Fong’s Only Hope: Coming of Age Under China’s One Child Policy, combined with articles on education, popular culture, and consumerism, have provided a valuable window on the lives of young Chinese. Michael Stanat’s book, China’s Generation Y: Understanding the Future Leaders of the World’s Next Superpower, about the 220 million Chinese born in the 80s, aims to add a new perspective to the mix: that of an American Gen-Y teenager writing for a general audience. While some readers might find the young author’s perspective intriguing, ultimately Mr. Stanat’s book is not one I can recommend for use in the classroom.
At the time of publication, Michael Stanat was a seventeen-year old high school student at the United Nations International School in New York. He received funding to conduct interviews in Shanghai in February 2004 from SIS International Research, a global marketing company whose founder and president is Ruth Stanat, the author’s mother. The author conducted four focus groups of eight Shanghai youth each, and did an additional fifteen individual interviews. In his book, Stanat draws on the interviews and summarizes findings of news sources to address the daily life, aspirations, and consumption habits of urban members of China’s Generation Y. Stanat aptly points out the generation gap between urban Gen Yers and their parents, and notes the growing materialism of urban youth. However, the book fails to offer new insights into Generation Y and presents several problems. Among them are difficulties with research methodology, application of data, and citation of sources. I found myself wishing that Mr. Stanat had written instead a personal essay about his experience and profiled the teens he met; the profiles would have provided welcome anecdotal evidence of trends observed in Generation Y.
Certainly, Stanat’s initiative in producing this ambitious project earns him an A for effort. We can expect another book from him, according to an interview with New York’s Journal News; the next will be on Generation Y in India.