BOOK REVIEWS

Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2019-05-20 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 252 user ratings
ISBN:006449280X
LANGUAGE:English

" The cover of this book did not draw me in, but it came with a great recommendation from a friend/our school librarian. I really enjoyed every page of it! I also learned so much about China under communist rule that I did not know anything about. It is a true story about the author's life in China from the ages of 12 to 14. I would highly recommend this book to any of my students. It was a quick, enjoyable, and informative read! " said.

" Read this with my students. It was so great to see their reactions as we were reading to a completely and utterly insane time period. As an adult, I wish it delved more deeply into the political turmoil happening in China with Chairman Mao. However, I appreciate the book's ability to stick to Ji-Li's personal account. I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to see how a paranoid, narcissistic, and totalitarian leader stays in power...or just tune into American current events as they unfold. " said.

"I must say, I am getting more and more disappointed with the schools choice of books to teach their curriculum. It's an absolute disgrace! I feel that by having adults find books they think kids and teens would want to read and be able to relate to, is a complete waste of time. I am aware however that they do their best, but none the less, it's not enough. This was one of six books that we read for class and by far this was the most tedious and poorly written. I feel I would learn more about the Chinese Cultural Revolution, by reading a biography of Chairman Mao, not by reading an eight year olds memories of what her family went through.

I hope that there will be better books next year.
" said.

"I first read this book in middle school because it was on the Battle of the Books reading list. Prior to reading the book, I thought the Cultural Revolution referred to some clothing movement (sadly this is also a common misconception amongst Chinese youth). I devoured the book. Keep in mind that this really is a young adult novel and not as deep as most other books about individuals or families living through the Cultural Revolution. The author was a young teenager at the start of the movement so the perspective is that of a young teenager. She tells the story of how the Cultural Revolution unfolded and how it affected her own life. She wanted to be a patriotic citizen and thus blindly supported everything as long as she could before realizing after quite some time that things were not what they seemed. When I read it, I thought it was a heart wrenching story of a girl's once promising life gradually reduced to a tragic state of living. In the end, I found it to be uplifting because she showed how she overcame the experiences and moved on with her life. But I also found it saddening how little what she lived through meant to those living in China now. A testament to the adage, "history is written by the victors." I would recommend this book with the understanding that it is not an adult novel so don't expect one." said.

"Oh my goodness, this book touched my heart. My daughter is reading it for a history course she is taking this year called Key of Liberty. I always pre-read any books my daughters are assigned as part of a course. I had never heard of this book or Ji Li Jiang. But I am SO glad I have read it now. I knew surface stories about the Chinese Cultural Revolution, but had never studied it. This book made me cry. I cried for Ji Li, I cried for the Jiang family, I cried for the children & families put through this, I cried for China and I cried for the history and culture they lost/destroyed during this time. Jiang does an excellent job of showing you the horror of the Cultural Revolution from a child's eyes, but does it in a way that I do not mind my 12-year-old daughter reading this book. It does not have graphic portrayals of grotesque violence (though I know that happened during the revolution, too). Definitely an excellent read. One I seriously encourage for those that have never realized just how precious the freedoms we enjoy in America are and take them for granted.

My two favorite quotes:
"This is the most frightening lesson of the Cultural Revolution: Without a sound legal system, a small group or even a single person can take control of an entire country. This is as true now as it was then."

"My family was too precious to forget, and too rare to replace."

" said.

"I would give this book three and a half stars if Goodreads would allow it. I found this book to be very enlightening. I don't know very much about the so-called Cultural Revolution in China's not-so-distant past. Ji-Li Jiang gives the reader a heartrending insider view of the localized and very personal impact and hardship imposed on the people of China by the Great and Supreme Tyrant Mao Zedong and his collaborators. I cringed while reading the book to see how easily neighbors turned against each other based on meaningless labels and lost all sense of basic compassion for their fellow human beings. I read it and wondered how could the Chinese people have allowed this and was there a way for them to have avoided it? I ask the same question when reading about Nazi Germany or the current dictatorships in Myanmar and North Korea. The loss of all freedom is terrifying, but when your neighbors become the enforcing arm of a tyrannical government it becomes seemingly hopeless. We must be wary of polarization in our society and wary of developing factions that hate each other. We must not allow political party identification to define us and who we like or hate. And above all we must retain respect for rule of law, when those laws protect our freedoms. Books like this remind me how dear I hold the freedoms I have and I resent any encroachments on them. I resent any effort that smacks of cleansing the "other" view from society. This book, like other memoirs that record the rise and fall of dictatorships, is valuable cautionary reading for anyone who values freedom. " said.

"“ السماء و الأرض شيء عظيم ، لكن الأعظم منها هو حنان الحزب الشيوعي ، و الأب و الأم عزيزان ، لكن الزعيم ماو يفوقهما معزة ” حين يكون هذا نصاً يتلوه الحزبيون الشيوعيون و يؤمن به الأطفال في عميقهم و ينشئون عليه ، لن يدهشك بعدها اللامنطق الذي سيقود شعباً بأكمله ليساق كالخراف خلف الرئيس ماو ، راضين قانعين كمؤمنين صادقين بالخلاص الذي ينتظرهم على يده ، و حتى بعد أن انكشفت الغمة واتضحت الكثير من الألاعيب الحزبية و حُوكم الثوريون المتسببين بالأضرار الفاجعة في الثورة الثقافية ، بقي الكثيرين وحتى المتضررين منهم يؤمنون بماو مبريئنه من التُهم ، دون أن تتسلل إلى قلوبهم ضغينة اتجاهه . كما ترى أدمغة مغسولة بإمتياز حيث تستطيع بكل أريحية أن ترى كم فاق ماو توقعات جورج أورويل . فتاة الوشاح الأحمر هي شهادة لذلك الزمان ، لتلك الفترة العصيبة الغريبة “ بنظري ” بعينيّ فتاة مراهقة لعائلة سوادء - أي لها تاريخ معادي للحزب الشيوعي ، أو أن عائلتها من المُلّاك الأثرياء - ، في وقتٍ سابق من العام الماضي ، قرأت “ بجعات برية ” مستفتحة معرفتي بالتاريخ الصيني الحديث إبان احتلال الياباني ، ثم حكم ماو الشيوعي إلى موته ، قرأت تلك الفترة على لسان يونغ تشانغ - مؤلفة بجعات برية - وهي ابنة لعائلة حمراء لها تاريخ عريق في الحزب بخلاف جي لي يانغ ، مؤلفة كتابنا هذا ، التي عانتْ من الإنقسام المريض بين مشاعرها الإنسانية الصرفة و بين ما تراه في مجتمعها الذي لا يُحَاكَم فيه المرء لسماعه للإذاعة الأجنبية على سبيل المثال ، أو لانتعاله حذاءً مدبباً ، أو بنطالاً ضيقاً و شعراً طويلاً ، أضف إلى ذلك أنه لا يتوانى الفرد منهم “ أصحاب العائلات السود ” بالأخص - ليس لون البشرة أعني - عن التبرئ من عائلاتهم ، و التنكر لهم ، و الوشاية بهم و اخضاعهم للمسائلة الدائمة ، وغيرها الكثير و الكثير . التي إن كانت تخبر شيئاً فلا تخبر سوى القُدرة العالية التي تمتع بها الحزب الشيوعي في الصين ليقنع الملايين و الألوف المؤلفة : بأن ماو بكل بساطة ، إله ، لم يصرح لنفسه فقط أن يتخذ ذلك لنفسه لقباً لأنه لا يعتقد بالأديان و “ القديمات الأربع ”" said.

"Where I got the book: purchased on Kindle. This was read for my daughter’s Book Wizards group (composed of cognitively disabled adults) and I actually borrowed her Kindle Fire so I could experience Whispersync immersion reading, where you hear the audiobook narration and the ebook follows along. I found the process a bit slow, as I clearly read much faster than the narrator, but it was kind of relaxing and it did focus my mind on the book. I read much of it in the plane, and found listening through my earbuds pleasantly distracting from the small children. Why do I always end up near small children on domestic flights? ’Tis a mystery.

Anyway, the book. This is a memoir ostensibly written for a young audience, because it covers the writer’s life from the age of 12 to 14. And yet as an adult reader I found it sufficiently challenging, since it deals with the Mao years of Chinese history and there was a lot I don’t know.

At the time of writing we’re in the 1960s, when the Cultural Revolution is well under way. Ji-Li has grown up in an environment where Chairman Mao is pretty much worshipped and to be a good revolutionary is the pinnacle of every child’s desire. She buys into everything she’s been taught completely and as a class valedictorian and athlete she envisions a glowing future for herself.

The first sign of trouble comes when Ji-Li is invited to audition for a revolutionary performance troupe. Her parents inform her that she won’t succeed because of their class status. This was a notion with which I wasn’t familiar, but it pervades the book—Ji-Li’s grandfather was a landlord, one of the “black” or anti-revolutionary categories (Mao’s thinking put landlords and criminals in the same basket). As the Cultural Revolution progresses, Ji-Li and her family are increasingly victimized and stigmatized, stripped of their belongings and forced to serve their community in menial roles. Ji-Li comes under pressure (and you need to remember she’s still a child at that point) to dissociate herself from her family in order to become a true revolutionary.

Narrator Christina Moore did a good job putting a voice to Ji-Li’s story, capturing both the revolutionary fervor of the young, Ji-Li’s devastation as her life changes, and her inner struggle to hold on to her sense of self and cope with the shame she feels. I think part of my feeling that the audio was slow was that Moore was narrating for a younger audience who need a little extra time to grasp the new concepts that the book brings to a Western audience.

Even for adults, I’d recommend this memoir as a gateway to understanding the Cultural Revolution and seeing how the attempt to build a fairer society gets twisted into a dog-eat-dog power struggle once you apply dogma (pun not intended, but I’m quite pleased with it) to people’s lives. There’s a glossary at the end to help guide you through the more unfamiliar terms, and I enjoyed Jiang’s writing.
" said.

August 2019 New Book:

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