Sunday, January 20, 2008
Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine
I recommend this book for: grade 6 and up
Compestine drew on her own experiences growing up under Chairman Mao to write this novel. Ling lives with her parents, both doctors, in a complex with other hospital staff. Her father studied under an American doctor, and so comes under suspicion of being an enemy of the government. An official named Comrade Li moves into their apartment, and although he is friendly with Ling and plays games with her, she soon sees him arresting her parents' friends and tormenting anyone who does not fully support Mao. Over the four years that the book covers, Ling's father is demoted from surgeon to janitor and eventually jailed. Her best friend is forced to become part of the Red Guard, and Ling herself is tormented at school for her long "bourgeois" hair and her anti-revolutionary parents. Between food shortages, Comarade Li, and the gang of young Red Guards who terrorize her at school, Ling is fighting for survival. This is great historical fiction, the kind that puts the reader right into the time and place. The senselessness and fear that reigned at this time in China are palpable, and Ling's rebellions made me want to cheer. A fantastic novel.