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The White-Haired Girl: Bittersweet Adventures of a Little Red Soldier

The White-Haired Girl: Bittersweet Adventures of a Little Red Soldier
by Jaia Sun-Childers, Douglas Childers

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The White-Haired Girl: Bittersweet Adventures of a Little Red Soldier by Jaia Sun-Childers, Douglas Childers

From Publishers Weekly

Sun was born in Beijing in 1964 to doting intellectual parents. Because they worked six days a week at the Ministry of Culture, she was sent at age two to a live-in kindergarten, where she learned to worship Chairman Mao and desire nothing more than to be "his best kid." When her mother was sent to a distant agricultural labor unit, she went along to live at a nearby school, from which she could visit her mother occasionally; her father, a filmmaker, was left behind. In time, she was sent back to Beijing to be cared for by a nanny and be near her father. But he had taken a mistress and did not appear for a long time. On her mother's return, his infidelity nearly destroyed the family, though eventually her parents reconciled. Through their wrenching love story, her own accepting childhood and her teenage infatuation with a poet, Sun details the madness of personal life under Mao; the growing disaffection, subsequently, under Deng; and the rush of people, including herself, to emigrate to the once-hated capitalist U.S. Although the writing here does not compare with the poetic beauty of Anchee Min's Red Azalea, Sun has written an authentic document of growing up in Maoist culture.

From Booklist

The nickname that gives this memoir its title comes from a famous Chinese revolutionary ballet about a good daughter. The chubby child who bore that nickname was born in 1964 to parents vulnerable, when the Cultural Revolution began, to attack as "stinking ninth category intellectuals" from the Ministry of Culture, once labeled by Mao as "a bourgeois organization stinking of capitalism and feudalism." At a labor camp in desolate Hubei province, her mother worked hard while Jaia, a city child, wandered the "golden hills" chasing grasshoppers and butterflies, but Jaia also learned that older relatives and friends from Beijing were "bad people who did not love Chairman Mao." Jaia's facile father scrambled to succeed in the nation's highly political film industry and romanced a series of "other women," even after his wife returned from the labor camp. Although it's hard to believe Sun-Childers truly remembers many incidents from her early years recounted here, her memoir is a nuanced, involving narrative of childhood in an exotic, puzzling time and place. Mary Carroll

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