WILD SWANS by Jung Chang


Three Daughters of China
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An exceptional tribute to three generations of courageous and articulate Chinese women: the grandmother, born in 1909 into a still feudal society; the mother, a Communist official and then ``enemy of the people''; and the daughter, the author, raised during the reactionary Cultural Revolution, then sent abroad in 1978, when the story ends, to study in England, where she now, at age 39, serves as Director of Chinese Studies for External Services, Univ. of London. In recounting her grandmother's early life--the binding of her feet, her time as the concubine of a warlord, her escape with her infant daughter after his death, and her marriage to a respectable middle-class doctor--Chang provides a vivid picture of traditional China and the place of women before the Communist Revolution. After the Revolution, the position of women rose: Chang's mother, who grew up during the Japanese occupation and married a Maoist guerrilla soldier, bore five children while enduring the discipline and hardship of those early revolutionary years, and later, as a civil servant and wife of an official, acquired in the new government status and advantages, especially education for her children. Raised in this ``Privileged Cocoon'' between 1958-65, Chang was protected from the injustices that led to the Cultural Revolution--the purges, repression, public denunciations and humiliations, the confusing and arbitrary shifts in ideology that led ultimately to the conviction of her parents, idealistic but old-time Communists, as ``enemies of the people.'' As part of her ``re-education,'' Chang was sent to the countryside to live as a peasant, serving without any training as a doctor and then as an electrician before being sent abroad. A valuable historical perspective on the impact of Mao on traditional Chinese culture and character--as well as an unusual window on the female experience in the modern world. Mostly, however, Chang offers an inspiring story of courage, sensitivity, intelligence, loyalty, and love, told objectively, without guilt or recrimination, in an unassuming and credible documentary style. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-671-68546-5
Page count: 528pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1991


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