Red Scarf Girl

Red Scarf Girl

A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution

by Ji-li Jiang, David Henry Hwang (Foreward)
Publisher: HarperCollins
Mass market paperback, 285 pages
List Price: $7.99 Sale Price: $6.79

Historical Setting: China, 1966 A.D.

I was exposed to the idea of Communism at a fairly early age, and grew up with stories from behind the "Iron Curtain." The people in those stories didn't usually agree ideologically with that stifling system, yet still had to suffer under it. Thus the idea of being supervised and controlled by a "big brother" government regime has always bothered me. This book offers a slightly different perspective.

The author tells her own story of growing up in China, fully in step with the Communist system and looking forward to participating more fully with the Party as she grows older. As the book progresses, even though she has no ideological shift in her thinking, she learns the true nature of Communism: that it is a system based on envy.

The year is 1966, the Cultural Revolution has just begun. Ji-li Jiang is 12 years old, and is offered the chance to audition for the Central Liberation Army Arts Academy. But her father refuses to let her audition, telling her that her political background would be taken into account—not simply her own political views, but the class status of her family. Among other things, her grandfather was a landlord (an "exploiter of the people"), her father is called "rightist" (a person critical of the Party), and her family employs a housekeeper. Ji-li is of a higher class than many of her friends: bourgeois, capitalist—not a good thing in a Communist society!

Although Ji-li herself naively believes in the Communist system, her family background prevents her from actively participating in Communist party and school activities the way she would like, and as the Cultural Revolution moves into full swing, her world begins to fall apart. Persecution of her family steps up and pressures on her over the next two years rise to a climax in which she is forced to make a choice: she can forsake and betray her "Landlord" family and be accepted, or she can choose family and lose her chance at a future in the Communist world. And simple as this choice may sound, it is a very difficult one for her.

As an adult, Ji-li eventually moved to America, where she and her family now enjoy the freedom of a Capitalist society. But she still loves China and this book is born out of a desire for people of both America and China to learn more of each other. This is an excellent book for students in junior high or early high school to learn more of the pressures of Communism. It also offers an excellent example of why we should not participate in a state-run school system! May we always keep in mind our freedoms so dearly bought and be willing to sacrifice to keep them!

Review by Eli Evans
Formerly home educated and now father of five, Eli loves discovering amazing books, new and old. The owner and manager of Exodus since 1998, his focus is on offering thoughtful and well-written books that inspire the imagination and promote creativity and diligence while living for God. Read more of his reviews here.
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Exodus Rating
FLAWS: Violence
Summary: Memoir of a girl torn between love of her native China, love of her adopted America, and ambivalent feelings toward Communism.

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