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Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party

by Ying Chang Compestine

Published by Henry Holt, 2007
248 pages
ISBN: 0-8050-8207-7

Ages 10-14

The impact of China’s Cultural Revolution on the lives of a Chinese family unfolds through the eyes Ling, who is nine as this story begins. Her father is a doctor who admires the west and is teaching her English; her mother is a traditional healer. Ling’s perspective on the revolutionary changes is authentically childlike. At school, Ling is singled out and bullied as one of the few children who hasn’t joined the Young Pioneers. At home, as government restrictions tighten, Ling longs for the pretty dresses her mother used to make her (they can no longer get flowered fabric) and misses her favorite foods When Comrade Li, a political officer for Mao’s government, moves into her building and, indeed, into a room that was formerly part of her own apartment, Ling can only see his charm at first. She only gradually realizes what her parents already understand: the threat he poses. Comrade Li becomes the driving force behind many arrests and scenes of public humiliation as the Red Guard rounds up neighbors, friends, and eventually Ling’s father. The moment Ling realizes her father, whom she idolizes, cannot protect her family is painful and powerful—one of many achingly real revelations in Ying Chang Compestine’s compelling novel, based in part on her own family’s experiences. (MS)  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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