Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"Letters in the Jade Dragon Box" by Gale Sears

Micaela recommended this to me, and she read it first, but I got my review up first!  Neener neener!  I read this one because of the biography/memoir kick I'm on.  

Chen Wen-shan is a fifteen-year-old girl living in British Hong Kong in the 1970s.  She lives with her stoic great-uncle and she likes Western culture, specifically cornflakes and rock 'n roll.  One day a messenger delivers a request for Wen-shan and her uncle to visit the Smythes, British museum curators living in Kowloon.  Wen-shan knew of her mother and grandfather still living in mainland communist China, but she had been smuggled to the safety of her great-uncle when she was five years old and she had no memory of her life there.  Mr. Smythe informs Wen-shan and her uncle he had smuggled out a box full of letters from her mother and paintings from her grandfather.  Over the next several months, Wen-shan and her uncle read the letters and view the paintings and learn of Wen-shan's past.

For me, the greatest value of this story, based on real events and people, was the story of the beginnings of communist China and the devastation wreaked  upon tens of millions of people.  It was a history I knew nothing of and I was often moved beyond expression at the horrors inflicted upon the Chinese by Chairman Mao and his socialist regime.  I wondered why on earth I don't remember studying this in school.  How come I know about Hitler and Nazi Germany and concentration camps, but I didn't know about Mao's campaign to make himself a vengeful and all-powerful god to the Chinese?  My naivete baffles and embarrasses me.  I guess that's why we must always seek learning and knowledge.