Daniel Tam-Claiborne

Daniel Tam-Claiborne is a freelance writer in Beijing, and Gruber Fellow in Global Justice and Women’s Rights at the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation

Posts by Daniel Tam-Claiborne


An unexpected friendship – fiction by Daniel Tam-Claiborne


He met her over the classifieds; that was how it started. He was living in Beijing for a couple of years then, teaching, and porting in and out of Mongolia on a tourist visa. Truth be told, though, even the teaching was a stretch. He rented a small room in an apartment with a couple of other foreigners and was going out nearly every night. By the time Thursday arrived, he could practically count the stiches at the bottom of his wallet.

The woman in the ad wanted English lessons. It all sounded pretty standard: reading, listening, conversation practice. That is, except for the asking price. It was over twice what he had seen anywhere else, so naturally he contacted her immediately. He figured he would have to fight off scores of would-be English tutors, but she wrote back within the hour and agreed to start right away.

Class was Saturday mornings. Friday nights were always the worst, but he told himself that he’d just ease up gradually and it wouldn’t be so bad. There he was, drinking a glass of scotch, watching the traffic swirl outside his twelfth-story balcony, and before he knew it, he was waking up in a bed he didn’t recognize, pulling all his strength together just to get across town.



Lessons in the dark – fiction by Daniel Tam-Claiborne


In non-coastal cities in America, area blackouts are about as common as getting struck by lightning or becoming infected by West Nile Virus. They’re so rare even that the simple mention of a date and place can often conjure up memories of an exact moment in a person’s life.

In Taigu, Shanxi province, where I was teaching English for two years, area blackouts occurred about as frequently as trips to the dry cleaners. Rare was it that a few weeks passed without our breakers going haywire and the school losing power to one half of campus or the other.