THE WHITE-HAIRED GIRL by Jaia Sun-Childers


Bittersweet Adventures of a Little Red Soldier
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 The intelligent and affecting memoir of a young woman who grew up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution and managed to thrive despite its horrors. Sun-Childers, who authored this autobiography with her American husband, has only the vaguest memories of life before the Cultural Revolution. She writes that her parents, a beautiful young couple who spoiled their plump little daughter, had both been government-employed graduates of the prestigious Chinese Diplomatic Institute. But in 1966, when Jaia was two years old, life changed drastically for her and her parents. Suddenly beauty became bourgeois, intellectual pursuits suspect. During the week Jaia attended a boarding kindergarten where strict teachers taught the children to recite Chairman Mao's wisdom before they were old enough to read his words or understand them. Jaia's mother was sent, and Jaia with her, to a reeducation camp, while Jaia's father became a philandering midlevel employee of the new government regime. Jaia, meanwhile, was torn between the desire to be a good little red soldier--who denounced her own mother, with near-disastrous consequences, for accidentally dropping a pin with Chairman Mao's picture on it facedown on the ground--and feelings of resentment when she was criticized by her cruel, politically savvy peers for being too good at her studies, too clean, or too vain about her appearance. But when Jaia was still an adolescent, the Gang of Four were denounced, and intellectuals were exonerated. Jaia was allowed--encouraged--to study and achieve. She was finally sent to America to attend college, where she has remained. Many stories have been shared about casualties of the Cultural Revolution, but Sun-Childers's stands out for its unique childhood perspective and its probing treatment of the loss of innocence. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14093-2
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Picador
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1996