A gripping memoir about growing up in—and leaving—China, from one of Britain's most acclaimed young novelists.
Guo (I Am China, 2014, etc.) spent most of her childhood unwanted: first, by parents who gave her away to a peasant couple, and later, by those adopted parents, who returned her as a sickly 2-year-old child to ailing, illiterate grandparents in a struggling fishing village. Poor, emaciated, and uneducated, Guo experienced a harsh childhood scraping by on rice porridge and the promise a Taoist monk made to her and her grandmother: "The girl is a peasant warrior….She will cross the sea and travel the Nine Continents." When the author’s parents came to reclaim her following her grandfather's suicide, her long and often heartbreaking journey to making that prediction come true began. In the communist compound of Wenling, she lived as the "unwanted one," beaten by her mother, ignored by her older brother, and abused by her community. Her love of art kept her going until she landed a coveted spot at the prestigious Beijing Film Academy. However, even in a city overflowing with culture and rebellion, oppression and censorship reigned supreme, and it wasn't until a scholarship from England granted Guo the opportunity to leave China that she was able to find artistic and personal freedom. After a decade abroad, the birth of her daughter forced her to return home to confront her family and the tragedies of her past. In evocative, captivating prose that reads like fiction, Guo brings to life her lifelong struggles against the chains of poverty, gender, and censorship. A talented wordsmith, she unabashedly lays bare her personal history with raw emotion and unflinching honesty, and she is unafraid to express her anger, disappointment, or joy at every turn.
A rich and insightful coming-of-age story of not only a woman, but an artist and the country in which she was born.