Gang of One: Memoirs of a Red Guard / Edition 1

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Overview

In 1966 twelve-year-old Fan Shen, a newly minted Red Guard, plunged happily into China's Cultural Revolution. Disillusion soon followed, then turned to disgust and fear when Shen discovered that his compatriots had tortured and murdered a doctor whose house he'd helped raid and whose beautiful daughter he secretly adored. A story of coming of age in the midst of monumental historical upheaval, Shen's Gang of One is more than a memoir of one young man's harrowing experience during a time of terror. It is also, in spite of circumstances of remarkable grimness and injustice, an unlikely picaresque tale of adventure full of courage, cunning, wit, tenacity, resourcefulness, and sheer luck-the story of how Shen managed to scheme his way through a hugely oppressive system and emerge triumphant.

Gang of One recounts how Shen escaped, again and again, from his appointed fate, as when he somehow found himself a doctor at sixteen and even, miraculously, saved a few lives. In such volatile times, however, good luck could quickly turn to misfortune: a transfer to the East Wind Aircraft Factory got him out of the countryside and into another terrible trap, where many people were driven to suicide; his secret self-education took him from the factory to college, where friendship with an American teacher earned him the wrath of the secret police. Following a path strewn with perils and pitfalls, twists and surprises worthy of Dickens, Shen's story is ultimately an exuberant human comedy unlike any other.

Fan Shen is a professor of English at Rochester Community and Technical College.

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Editorial Reviews

ForeWord
"Anyone wishing to be the architect of his or her own fortune would do well to study this amazing memoir, a testament to the human spirit."—ForeWord
Booklist
“Teens will strongly identify with Shen's maneuverings around repressive regulations."—Booklist, 2004 Editors' Choice
National Review

"[A] book of stunning power. . . . This book is full of death, and worse, as mass sadism took hold of an entire country (the world's biggest). But it is also full of humanity, and, at times, funny as hell. . . . There is even, shockingly, a love story toward the end of the book. It is as shocking and beautiful as that in 1984. Hypnotically rendered, Gang of One is a high literary achievement, documenting an even greater achievement. . . . the life of this awe-inspiring man, Fan Shen."—Jay Nordlinger, National Review

— Jay Nordlinger

National Review Online
"[A] masterpiece . . . a book that should be read 1,000 years from now. It is startling, gripping, and wise. An altogether extraordinary book about an extraordinary life—and yet, a life that speaks for the experience of an entire nation, in its worst period."—National Review Online's 2004 Gift Guide
National Review - Jay Nordlinger
"[A] book of stunning power. . . . This book is full of death, and worse, as mass sadism took hold of an entire country (the world's biggest). But it is also full of humanity, and, at times, funny as hell. . . . There is even, shockingly, a love story toward the end of the book. It is as shocking and beautiful as that in 1984. Hypnotically rendered, Gang of One is a high literary achievement, documenting an even greater achievement. . . . the life of this awe-inspiring man, Fan Shen."—Jay Nordlinger, National Review
ForeWord
"Anyone wishing to be the architect of his or her own fortune would do well to study this amazing memoir, a testament to the human spirit."
Booklist
"Teens will strongly identify with Shen's maneuverings around repressive regulations."

-Booklist, 2004 Editors' Choice

National Review
"[A] book of stunning power. . . . This book is full of death, and worse, as mass sadism took hold of an entire country (the world's biggest). But it is also full of humanity, and, at times, funny as hell. . . . There is even, shockingly, a love story toward the end of the book. It is as shocking and beautiful as that in 1984. Hypnotically rendered, Gang of One is a high literary achievement, documenting an even greater achievement. . . . the life of this awe-inspiring man, Fan Shen."

— Jay Nordlinger, National Review

National Review Online
"[A] masterpiece . . . a book that should be read 1,000 years from now. It is startling, gripping, and wise. An altogether extraordinary book about an extraordinary life-and yet, a life that speaks for the experience of an entire nation, in its worst period."

-National Review Online's 2004 Gift Guide

Rochester Post-Bulletin
"Fan Shen is a testimonial to courage, ingenuity, and tenacity. The legacy of America has been enriched by his journey, presence, and susbsequent contributions."

— Tom Ostrom, Rochester Post-Bulletin

Janesville Messenger
"A tale of adventure, love, and inspiration."
China Journal
"The book is very well written and reads like a picaresque novel in which the hero (Shen) faces daunting challenges from a series of rigid Party hacks and an uncaring bureaucracy, and must use his wits and his mastery and manipulation of the rhetoric of Party jargon to survive and move on to the next challenge."

— Stanley Rosen, China Journal

Publishers Weekly
While the general outlines of this account of growing up in Communist China will be familiar to readers of recent Chinese memoir, the details can still shock and astound. Shen, age 12 at the start of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, recounts being complicit in arduous Red Guard activities that directly or indirectly led to several gruesome deaths of political "enemies"-and later falling in love with and marrying the daughter of a man brutally tortured and killed by one of his fellow Red Guards. Shen (who now lives in Minnesota) also offers a snapshot of the political wiles needed to rebel against the fate one was assigned by the party: in order to both leave the abominable and oppressive conditions and to avoid persecution, Shen learned to feign political ardor, fabricate spy stories to confound the watchful authorities, pull strings with highly placed friends and falsify health tests. Though he might seem to overly relish these clever maneuvers, Shen's portrait of the social and political climate in China is unambiguous: power rested in the hands of a few and professed loyalty to party ideologies made it unsafe to trust anyone; the only way to win was to use the party's rules to one's own ends. The memoir's title is significant (the Gang of Four were those responsible for the Cultural Revolution)-it spells out the need for self-absolution for his painful past as a Red Guard and expresses the utter loneliness forced on anyone trying to live for himself under a regime that could not care less. Agent, Bob Silverstein. (Apr. 26) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT
During the Maoist era, Fan Shen grew up amidst stifling regimentation that demanded total obedience. Gradually, he witnessed enough brutality to end his allegiance to the tyrannical regime. His methods of feigning enthusiasm and his bending of communist rules enhance his description of one person's effort to think and live independently. Distracting for American audiences, perhaps, is his pervasive urge to express sentimental details awkwardly in English, such as his tears "turning clean water salty." For school and library use, the book lacks such useful adjuncts as an index, timeline, map, and photos. Still, it is a powerful story. (American Lives Series.). KLIATT Codes: JSA--Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2004, Univ. of Nebraska Press, 279p., $15.95.. Ages 12 to adult.
—Mary Ellen Snodgrass
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803243088
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2004
  • Series: American Lives
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 282
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Hailing from the People’s Republic of China, Fan Shen is a professor at Rochester Community and Technical College in Minnesota. He has published three translated books and numerous articles in both Chinese and English.
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Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
1 "Burn the Old World!" 3
2 "Long Live the Red Terror!" 10
3 "That's My Piano!" 19
4 The Great Wall Fighting Team 30
5 "Revolution Means Chopping Life" 42
6 The Forbidden Books 48
7 The Great Leader Meets the Red Guards 53
8 The Journey West 65
9 The Beijing Kids 72
10 "Be a Revolutionary Peasant!" 81
11 The Great Mountain Flood 87
12 The Barefoot Doctor 96
13 Moon Face 102
14 Smoking Devil's Wedding 106
15 The Death of Uncle Cricket 109
16 A Mouse Wants to Fly to the Sky 121
17 Li Ling 127
18 "Another Jumped Last Night" 134
19 The Year with Two Augusts 140
20 "The Goal: Join the Party" 146
21 "Confession Is Death!" 153
22 The Lucky Eleven 165
23 The Heavenly White Pagoda 177
24 "Two Uncles Are Here to See You" 186
25 "Clever Zhao's Missing!" 199
26 The Nun 204
27 The Monster of Ambition 210
28 The Last Battle in College 217
29 "Forget It!" 227
30 Watery Stool, No Bacteria? 234
31 A Stinking Stone from the Outhouse 241
32 "You Have Launched a Satellite!" 247
33 "I'm the Only One Who Reads Your Letters" 254
34 The Campaign for a Passport 258
35 "Savor It" 266
36 Don't Laugh Yet! 271
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2008

    Gang of One: Memoirs of a Red Guard

    Gang of One I believe, could teach teenagers researching about China's Cutural war a lot better than some history based textbooks. Fan Shen's experiences he goes through and the changes his country goes through is more imaginable and realistic than I could ever imagine. I couldn't put this book down. Every chapter left be choking and almost begging for more. And every turn of the page kept me guessing, is Fa Shen ever going to get out? Fan Shen entered into the war at a very youn age, and soon learned how just a few words could tun a young child, into a man. This was a heart-pounding book from start to finish. This is a must-read!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2004

    Exremely interesting read of life on the other side.

    While having the familiar outline of a memoir it proves more than interesting in keeping the reader informed of a life considered opposite from the traditional U.S. style. The reader comes away with a better understanding of the 'Red Guard' era.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2004

    Gang of One: Memoirs of a Red Guard

    I enjoyed this book very much and I just could not put the book down until I finished the book. Mary of New York

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2004

    Gang of One: Memoirs of a Red Guard

    This the best biography I have read this year. Very entertaining and very inspiring, a true page turner! Allen

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2011

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews

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