Monday, July 19, 2010

Chinese Cinderella

I meant to post a new chapter book review every Thursday, but I was away being a camp counselor for our church camp, and I forgot to pre-schedule it. I love biographies and memoirs and this is one I've been meaning to read for a while. When I received a copy of the author's first fiction book, it was the perfect motivation to read her original and most famous book. This memoir for children is an abridged/reworked version of her adult memoir, Falling Leaves, but even as an adult, I enjoyed the children's version more.

Book: Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah
Vital Stats: Published in 1999 by Delacorte Press, 205 pages
Awards: 2000 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Marketed Toward: The "Young Adult" market, more or less teens 12+
The Quick and the Short of It: Recommended for the emotionally mature

Book Synopsis
Adeline Yen Mah tells the difficult story of her childhood. She is the fifth child, and a daughter, unwelcome in her family. When her mother dies from complications from childbirth, Adeline is blamed. After her father's remarriage, her place in her family is even more insecure. She is alternatively ignored and abused, only receiving minimal praise from a father who can't remember her name when she wins school prizes. Set during a backdrop of WWII and then communist revolution in China, Adeline Yen Mah (or Yen Jun-Ling in Chinese) had a rough childhood to say the least. The only ones who take an interest in her are her aunt and grandfather, but they are powerless to make a substantial change in her life. Yet she manages to overcome a cruel stepmother (worthy of any fairytale), an apathetic father, and siblings who are alternatively friends and foe to find herself and her own path in life.

My Take
Fantastic book! It's well written and captivating (I got through it in two days). Most fascinating for me were the insights into Chinese culture, the explanations of language and family structure. This book would be the perfect accompaniment to a unit on China. However it is not an easy book to read. The maturity level required for this book is higher than the reading level. While not as intense as A Child Called It, I would still recommend taking your child's emotional level into account. That being said, this is still a fantastic book. The children's biography covers her life until she is finally granted an escape, college in England. The adult biography glosses over the childhood years and focuses more on her life as an adult and her continuing struggles with her family even after she achieves her independence.

Possible Issues/Christian Connection
The abuse doesn't usually take the form of physical abuse, but abandonment and emotional abuse can be as traumatic for the child and the reader. There is one particularly disturbing scene in which the author's beloved pet duck is killed by her father's dog. Both her grandfather and aunt are devout Buddhists, but their traditions are not lingered on much, actually I wanted more. Overall this program shouldn't be a problem for a Christian family provided you choose an appropriately emotionally mature child. I would think a minimum age is 12 or 13.

Your brothers, your own family—
even they have betrayed you;
they have raised a loud cry against you.
Do not trust them,
though they speak well of you.
-Jeremiah 12:6


Post a Comment