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One of those books was Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution by Ji Li Jiang.
I really enjoyed this book, though, considering the content, enjoy isn’t the right word. I appreciated the story is perhaps a better way to put it. In many ways, this book read like fiction, but it is Liang’s actual account of her childhood.
I went to China in 1998 with my cousin and a college friend, and even then, we knew we should be very careful about what we said in public. I can only imagine what it must have been like to grow up during the Cultural Revolution as Ji Li Jiang did.
Ji Li Jiang grows up in a world where everything is turned upside down. She is an outstanding student, which, rather than being a benefit, turns into a liability as all of her friends and classmates turn against her and accuse her of living the old way, the way people did before the revolution. Likewise, Jiang’s friend, An Yi’s mother was an outstanding teacher before the revolution. During the revolution, she’s harassed and even beaten for being that type of teacher.
Jiang really has difficulties when her father, who works in the theater, is accused of establishing counterrevolutionary ties and listening to a foreign radio. He’s held for months while the family suffers. Their home is raided, their belongings confiscated. Jiang’s grandmother is forced to sweep the city streets every day because she was the wife of a landlord.
It seems unbelievable that Jiang grew up in that type of environment and lived to tell about it. She came to the United States when she was 30 years old. She is older now and believes she was brainwashed to believe and trust Chairman Mao, even when it meant great hardship for her family and friends. She wrote this book “for the little girl” she “had been and for all the children who lost their childhoods” as she did.
I’m sure my own child will learn a great deal from Jiang sharing her story.
I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.