Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li JiangWhat to say about this...sometimes I have to resist the urge to review every book that I read. Then I think about the fact that I didnt review it, and I think, Oh, just review it. Say something. Say anything. Not that people are just waiting to read what I and everyone else thought of it, but I feel that I should at least say something about it. After all, people do search for books to read and all the reviews pop up underneath them, so if they are interested enough to click on this book, they are likely interested enough to read what people said about it.
The reason that I picked up this book in the first place was because I wanted to read more about the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and it was suggested to me by a friend of a friend. She knew I was looking for more general information rather than one person’s account, but she suggested it because there is not much literature out there about that period of China’s history.
Here are some random thoughts:
The book was very YA, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for.
The intensity with which the people in Shanghai, where Jiang lived, jumped on the bandwagon of abolishing the “Four Olds” was terrifying. With a few well-turned phrases, it was very easy for people to argue that something was “Four Olds”. As a consequence, almost anything could, and was, considered as such. In particular, the kids Jiang’s age were frenzied in their judgments both in school and around town.
In school, families such as Jiang’s that were unlucky enough to be considered “black” rather than “red” had it the worst. They were ridiculed, they got into fights, and their belongings were taken by other children. They were denied many opportunities, which included admission to schools they might have otherwise attended.
At home, the Red Guard came in and destroyed where they lived while looking for items that were considered “Four Olds”. Before they arrived, Jiang’s family burned photos and clothing, repainted furniture, but still the Red Guard found and confiscated many of their belongings.
All in all, I enjoyed reading about Ji-Li Jiang’s transformation from a young woman blindly following Chairman Mao’s edicts, to first questioning the Revolution when her family was affected, and ultimately opposing it and leaving China to move to the United States.
Yes, the havoc that the Chinese Cultural Revolution wrought on families was frightening. Yes, it was terrible what happened to Jiang and her family, but I wonder what kind of person she would have become had she been part of one of the lucky “red” families. I wonder if there would have been a memoir at all.
East Asia Gateway for Linking Educators
These notes were contributed by members of the GradeSaver community. The narrator is the author, Ji-Li, and she narrates from her own perspective as a twelve year old girl whose life and family are destroyed by the Cultural Revolution. There is conflict within Ji-Li herself as she struggles to come to terms with her new reality; she does not know how she feels about the new regime but knows that she is required to support it. She wants to support it but wants to remain loyal to her family and knows that it is not possible to do both. The majority of the conflict described in the book is within Ji-Li herself. Ji-li's father tells her that she will not pass the background check to join the dance troupe and this foreshadows the fact that her family will be ostracized for being well to do, and that she will be rejected from the Red Guard.
These notes were contributed by members of the GradeSaver community. Even a cursory skim through the book tells the reader that Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution and the Communist government he formed after it brought nothing but evil to China. Mao had no interest in presiding over a democracy, and no interest in governing free-thinking people. In order for Communism to thrive and succeed all elements of freedom, including free thought, have to be taken away from the people immediately. It is apparent in the book that the most important tool that was used by the regime was brainwashing. Surprisingly, Ji-Li did not realize the evil of Mao until she was older.
The Cultural Revolution began in when Ji-li is twelve.
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Ji-li is just like any other teenage girl. She goes to school, gets annoyed at her siblings, and dreams of becoming an actress one day, just like her mom. The only difference between her and you? She's growing up in China in okay, your mom probably isn't an actress, too. This doesn't impact her life all that much until she's chosen to audition for the super-competitive Liberation Army dance troupe.