One for the girls. The secret story of an unwanted daughter. To be honest, I wasn't sure I really wanted to read this one, so when I finally opened the book I was relieved to find that it is a memorable and even enjoyable story.
When Yen Jun-ling is born her mother dies, and that is the catastrophe of her life. Not only does her father turn from the five children he had by his first wife when he marries again, but her three brothers and sister also despise Jun-ling for being the cause of their own neglect. Third Brother tells her:
It all stems from our mama dying when you were born. Big Sister and our two older brothers knew her better than I did. I only remember her a little. Things were much nicer when she was alive. You made her go away.
Chinese Cinderella is an autobiography. It is a story written by a woman in her fifties about her own childhood. The story is set against a background of life in Japanese-occupied China and the civil war between the communists and nationalists which followed Japan's defeat at the end of the Second World War. There are some fascinating snapshots of the old way of life such as the binding of Grandmother Nai Nai's feet which had been the custom in China for over a thousand years. But this is mainly an account of the relentless neglect and loathing which was heaped on Yen Jun-ling during her excruciating childhood, and the way she chose to cope with it. Her account is delivered with the insight of a mature woman:
In spite of my writing and academic record, my classmates probably suspected there was something pathetic about me. I never spoke of my family; neither issued nor accepted any invitations outside the school; and always refused to eat the candies or snacks brought by my friends. My hair-style, shoes, socks and book bag did not inspire envy. No one from home ever came to be with me on prize-giving day, regardless of how many awards I had won.
They didn't know that, in front of them, I was desperate to keep up the pretence that I came from a normal, loving family. I couldn't possibly tell anyone the truth: how I was held responsible for any misfortune and was resented for simply being around; how my mind was racked with anxiety and constantly burdened by an impending sense of doom. How I simply loathed myself and wished I could disappear, especially when I was in front of my parents.
Jun-ling's story is seen through the filter of time, and, perhaps her own, old defensive guard is up. At any rate, she simply does not ask for nor expect any sympathy, (with the possible exception of the interlude with PLT, Precious Little Treasure, which I leave you to read for yourself).
Whatever you make of Yen Jun-ling herself, I think you will find this book highly memorable. It is an extraordinary catalogue of abuse and malice which will stay with you for quite a while after you finish the book. And I think you might find this book actually enjoyable, despite the content, because it is so well written. Narrated by Jun-ling herself, it is an intimate and simply told story. Read it for yourself and see if you agree with me.
[Anonymous], girl, age 11, from Somalia, on 13th December 2008. Rating:
I think the book is really good but sad! I have to read fr a english class and I started to cry espically during chapter 11 PLT and how she is treated like crap..... I think lots of girls should read this book even though it might be too sad
sunkangh, boy, age 17, from auckland, New Zealand, on 16th August 2008. Rating: 10/10
This true story of Adeline Yen Mah's childhood in China tells of her courage and triumph over the abuse she suffers at the hands of her father and stepmother. Adeline Yen Mah is born into an affluent and powerful family in China, but her life is made miserable from the moment she is born. After her mother dies giving birth to her, Adeline's family labels her "bad luck," causing her to grow up with the guilt that she alone is responsible for her mother's death. Things at home get even worse when Adeline's father remarries. Restricted to one small area of the house, Adeline and her natural siblings are mistreated while their stepbrother and stepsister receive special treatment. An outstanding student and the winner of many academic awards, Adeline revels in the praise she receives from her Aunt Baba and grandfather, Ye Ye, and lives with the hope that her father might someday be proud of her. I think this story is very sad and yet gripping it is the sort of book that doesn't let you put it down many people think that this sort of book is very painful as the author talks about all her down falls and up strengths throughout her childhood’s this book is very emotional. I am sensitive but when I see a sad passage I am not the kind of person to cry. I would sort of look at my self in their shoes and imagine how it would feel to be them. This book is great for people who actually and still do live the way the Chinese Cinderella did. I really look up to the children and adults that were abused in their childhood and are still carrying on with their lives I think they are incredible with a capital I. So my summary up is that whatever anyone has experienced which hasn't been pleasant just continue to work hard because it will all pay off in the future.
Wang Xiao Ru, girl, age 14, from Shanghai, China, on 10th August 2008. Rating: 9/10
This book is the moving autobiography of a young Chinese girl, Adeline Yen Mah. Born the fifth child to an affluent Chinese family her life begins tragically. Adelines mother died shortly after her birth due to complications bought on by the delivery, and in Chinese culture this marks her as cursed or bad luck. This situation is compounded by her fathers new marriage to a lady who has little affection for her husbands five children. She displayed overt antagonism and distrust towards all of the children, particularly Adeline, whilst favoring her own younger son and daughter born soon after the marriage. The book outlines Adelines struggle to find a place where she feels she belongs. Denied love from her parents, she finds some solace in relationships with her grandfather Ye Ye, and her Aunt Baba, but they are taken from her. Adeline immerses herself in striving for academic achievement in the hope of winning favour, but also for its own rewards as she finds great pleasure in words and scholarly success.I REALLY LIKE THIS BOOK!!
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As an autobiography, it is difficult to follow this book. But if you enjoy Chinese Cinderella, you might like to look at these by Virginia Euwer Wolff:
If you like an emotionally-charged read, you could try practically anything by K M Peyton:
Also, you might be interested in this one by Gaye Hicyilmaz about refugees:
Or, this one, also about refugees, by Elizabeth Laird:
One final suggestion, you could have a look at this one by Livia Bitton-Jackson: