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A powerful (pseudonymous) account of life in China after the Communist victory, written by a woman who accompanied her family back to China from the US. Her father, fearful of the growing civil war between the government and the forces of Mao-Tse-Tung, left China toward the end of the Second World War, but returned, full of optimism, in 1949. The author, schooled in the US, brings a vivid dual sensibility to bear on the gradual disillusionment that followed: their classification as —national bourgeoisie—; the relentless pressure on them to sell their house to the government; the imprisonment of her father without charge for seven months. And yet these, she writes, were —the good years— in which everyone “was in an easier state of mind and feeling better disposed toward the new government.— In the years which followed, particularly during the Cultural Revolution, millions were to die, and she and the 400 men and women who worked with her in the Central Music Conservatory were sent to work in the countryside. Her father died because all the qualified doctors and specialists had been sent out to raise animals and scrub floors. She found a book on Chinese technology in the 17th century, and the only difference she could find was that they then used animals instead of people as their beasts of burden. In telling the story, Chen destroys the myth that most Chinese willingly waved the Little Red Book: “Nothing could be further from the truth. This performance was a farce, and every rational Chinese despised it.— With the fall of Chiang Ching, the climate improved somewhat, and Chen received a Rockefeller grant to the US, where she has remained since the Tiananmen Square massacre. An often harrowing account of a life lived in circumstances where tragedy, terror, and the surreal were mixed, by a woman who never lost her sanity or her sensitivity. (Radio satellite tour)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-56924-742-0
Page count: 336pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1998