SPIDER EATERS: A Memoir by Rae Yang

SPIDER EATERS: A Memoir

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Moving, poetic, and honest, this is one of the best memoirs yet published of the Cultural Revolution in China. Yang (East Asian Studies/Dickinson Coll.) was born in 1950; her parents, both professors, had impeccable revolutionary credentials. She spent her early years in Switzerland, where her father served as a diplomat, and was a teenager back home in China when the Cultural Revolution began. She reveals, with unsparing insight into herself and tenderness for those caught up in it, the impact of this upheaval on the closeknit families and idealistic youth of China. She describes the first violent months of the Cultural Revolution as the most terrible and also the most wonderful of her life, as, with the certainty of youth, she and her fellow revolutionaries trashed their teachers, their political leaders, and all those that stood in the way of Mao's vision. A teacher was beaten to death for asking students to practice their art by drawing nudes from plastic statues. Yang and her comrades in the Red Guards hauled officials in for brutal interrogations, and she was part of a group that banned, with disastrous consequences, all private shops in the city of Guangzhou. Volunteering to go into the countryside, she was assigned to a pig farm. She remembers musing at the time, ""I think I love Chairman Mao more than my parents."" Much of the memoir consists of her hard experiences on the farm and her gradual recognition that the Cultural Revolution was a ""tremendous waste and unprecedented human tragedy""; the true class struggle in China, she realized, was being waged by entrenched and corrupt bureaucrats against the Chinese people. Eventually she managed to get back to Beijing and to obtain a scholarship from the University of Massachusetts. This is a sad story, filled with individual tragedies, but deeply revealing in its portrait of idealistic youth lost in a convulsion almost beyond human conception.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0520215982
Page count: 312pp
Publisher: Univ. of California