Reading Oddities


Over the years I have read different books on Chinese culture – The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, Dragonwings by Laurence Yep, Mandarin Plaid by S.J. Rozan, and others. They’re usually separated by many other books in between.

If you follow this blog, you know I spent a month recently reading Hawaii by James Michener. A major family featured is a Chinese immigrant family. It starts with their beginnings in China, then to Hawaii. The immigrant couple keep their traditions in Hawaii so the reader gets to see more.

On the recommendation of a woman at the bookstore, I picked up Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin. It is the autobiography of a ballet dancer born in China in 1961 who was raised in Chairman Mao’s regime. The Chairman died while he was still in dance school and his class became known as Mao’s last class. The government started loosening some after that, although communism was still extremely strict. From Li Cunxin’s story I am learning the cost Mao’s communism had on the peasants. His family of seven sons lived on their parents’ earning of less than $100 a year – that’s with both parents working in the field. He describes the regime up until the 1980’s when he then visited America as part of a student cultural exchange program. The differences between the two countries shocked him. I was told it was better to listen to the book. I’m glad I borrowed the audio version – I wouldn’t have gotten any of the pronunciation right. What a fascinating tale. Li Cunxin gives a good picture of both the rigors of learning ballet and the culture of China during the end of Mao’s regime. The book is excellent.

To finish it,  I picked up a book for my 999 challenge – China Dolls by Michelle Yu and Blossom Kan. Once again I am in Chinese culture – this time the immigrants’ adult children in New York City. These women in their 20’s are trying to make their own place in the city and still follow their family traditions and culture. They are trying to meld the two cultures and it isn’t easy. This is fun – and it’s Chinese chick lit. Yes, the family and culture put together the women’s and book’s background, but it’s still enjoyable chick lit.

It’s been a while since I read a book with much Chinese culture in it – now I’m immersed for a few weeks. I never know where my reading paths are going to take me next.