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Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution

by Ji-Li Jiang

Published by HarperCollins, 1997
285 pages
ISBN: 0-06-027585-5

Age 12 and older

Readers won't need prior knowledge of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 1960s to be compelled by this gripping description of the revolution's impact on the life of 12-year-old Ji-Li Jiang and her family, or to come away with an understanding of the ideas that fueled the revolution, and the personal price paid by thousands as those ideas were carried out by Chairman Mao and his government. In the New China of the revolution, family connections are all it takes to condemn someone, even if the "sin" of the family took place many years ago. As a result, because her grandparents were landlords, Ji-Li and her family are suspect. Ji-Li, a bright and eager student before the revolution began, starts to dread going to school, where Party loyalty now means more than academic achievement. She is humiliated when her name appears in a da-zi-bao, a type of propaganda poster that raises suspicions about people's actions without any basis of truth. And she is frightened when her father is detained for weeks by the government for refusing to confess to a "crime" he did not commit; indeed, he does not even know what it is they want him to admit to. Initially, Ji-Li had been swept up in revolutionary fervor, eagerly identifying "four olds"--old ideas, old customs, old cultures and old habits--to be destroyed. But now she is torn and confused. Her teachers tell her she is an "educable" child who can overcome her background if she denounces her family, but this, Ji-li realizes, she is not prepared or willing to do. Red Scarf Girl is Ji-Li Jiang's true story, not Orwellian fiction. Her voice is as real as the events it describes in this important, illuminating memoir. CCBC categories: Biography and Autobiography; Historical People, Places and Events.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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