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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July Book Blog: I’ll Read When the Baby Goes to College


The Book: Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China 
The Author: Jung Chang 
The Publication Date: 1991 

What It’s About (from the paperback jacket): “Blending the intimacy of memoir and the panoramic sweep of eyewitness history, Wild Swans . . . is the story of three generations in twentieth-century China. It is an engrossing record of Mao's impact on China, an unusual window on the female experience in the modern world, and an inspiring tale of courage and love. Jung Chang describes the life of her grandmother, a warlord's concubine; her mother's struggles as a young idealistic Communist; and her parents' experience as members of the Communist elite and their ordeal during the Cultural Revolution. Chang was a Red Guard briefly at the age of fourteen, then worked as a peasant, a "barefoot doctor," a steelworker, and an electrician. As the story of each generation unfolds, Chang captures in gripping, moving—and ultimately uplifting—detail the cycles of violent drama visited on her own family and millions of others caught in the whirlwind of history.”

Why I Picked It Up:
A friend - who knew I’d read and enjoyed historical fiction set in China - recommended it. This book is different because it is non-fiction and is told more like a journalist might. Until I read Red Scarf Girl in 2010 I knew next to nothing about China during the time of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Most of the stories I’d read were set in Imperial China (up to 1911) and ended somewhere in the Republic of China years (1912-1949). This book covers 1909 – 1978, so it helped me piece together what I knew from various sources and filled me in on the gaps. I wouldn’t recommend this book for the beach, because while very well written it isn’t fluffy, and it’s about 500 pages. Read this book, and I promise you will say at least once, “Oh, is that what that was all about?!” and you will probably say, “how could that have happened?!”

Historical Fiction (much of it based on the writers’ families and/or experiences) I Recommend:
The Kitchen God’s Wife by Tan
Eighth Moon by Lord
Spring Moon by Lord
The Joy Luck Club by Tan
Hundred Secret Senses by Tan
The Good Earth by Buck
Middle Heart by Lord
Empress Orchid by Min
The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Tan
Red Scarf Girl by Jiang
Saving Fish from Drowning by Tan (Okay, this one is set in Burma/Myanmar)
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Sijie
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by See

- Elaine Rooker Jack

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