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1. Red Scarf Girl By Ji-Li Jiang 1997

See Author's Conversation with Chinese Culture Net

The picture on the cover of Red Scarf Girl is that of a young Chinese girl, smiling and wearing the red scarf of young Pioneers, the young group considered the first step toward membership in the Communist part. The photo on the inside of the back cover is of a beautiful self-assured young woman who now lives in the San Francisco area.

But it's the unforgettable picture that Ji-Li Jiang paints with words that will forever haunt the readers of her book.

Ji-Li was a twelve-year-old sixth grader in 1966 when the culture Revolution began in her native People's Republic of China. She was outstanding among her peers, both as a student and as leaders. Like all schoolchildren at the time, she'd been taught that "Heaven and Earth are great, but greater still is the kindness of the Communist party; father and mother are dear, but dearer still is Chairman Mao." Her future in Chairman Mao's New China seemed assured, at least to her.

And then Mao's call for "perpetual revolution" mobilized Red Guards to wage class war against traditional society. Suddenly intelligence was a crime and a wealthy family background brought on persecution or worse. For Ji-Li, granddaughter of a landlord, suddenly everything changed.

In short order the Chinese educational system was criticized, and Ji-Li, along with her classmates, was set to the task of writing posters denouncing her beloved school and teachers. Eventually criticism extended to students as well. Accustomed to excellence and acclaim, Ji-Li was so humiliated by a poster her classmates used to denounce her that she stayed home from school until a storm destroyed all the posters in the school yard. Still, she was sure that the changes in society were bringing new life to China.

 

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