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Little Green: Growing Up During the Chinese Cultural Revolution

Little Green: Growing Up During the Chinese Cultural Revolution

by Chun Yu

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I was born in a small city near the East Sea,
when the Great Cultural Revolution began.
My name is Little Green,
my country Zhong Guo, the Middle Kingdom.

When I was ten years old,
our leader had died and the revolution ended.

And this is how I remember it.

When Chun Yu was born in a small city in China, she was


I was born in a small city near the East Sea,
when the Great Cultural Revolution began.
My name is Little Green,
my country Zhong Guo, the Middle Kingdom.

When I was ten years old,
our leader had died and the revolution ended.

And this is how I remember it.

When Chun Yu was born in a small city in China, she was born into a country in revolution. The streets were filled with roaming Red Guards, the walls were covered with slogans, and reeducation meetings were held in all workplaces. Every family faced danger and humiliation, even the youngest children.

Shortly after Chun’s birth, her beloved father was sent to a peasant village in the countryside to be reeducated in the ways of Chairman Mao. Chun and her brother stayed behind with their mother, who taught in a country middle school where Mao’s Little Red Book was a part of every child’s education. Chun Yu’s young life was witness to a country in turmoil, struggle, and revolution—the only life she knew.

This first-person memoir of a child’s view of the Chinese Cultural Revolution is a stunning account of a country in crisis and a testimony to the spirit of the individual—no matter how young or how innocent.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This memoir told in free verse poetry recounts Chun Yu's childhood experience until the age of 10, when Communist leader Mao died and "the revolution ended." The strongest poems offer an authentic childlike insight into the ideals and contradictions of the cause. When she was four for instance, she describes the propaganda being blared into her grandmother Nainai's home in the country, "The loudspeaker of the radio would keep on talking,/ but after a while we didn't hear it anymore"; she recalls her father's hopeful musing about the promises of Communism ("Wouldn't it be nice if all this came true?"); and in a poem called "Political Classes for an Eight-Year-Old," Little Green memorizes teachings from Mao's Red Book, though "I had no idea what this meant." In "Little-Person Books and a Story About the Forest," Chun Yu effectively contrasts the revolutionary tract forced upon young people with the lure of the contraband "children's books confiscated and burned at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution." However, because the poems offer episodic glimpses of Little Green and her family (much like the family photos that accompany the text), readers may feel distanced from the players, including the narrator herself. Still, Chun Yu delivers an unusual and at times memorable perspective on this turbulent period. Ages 10-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Xiao Quing, or Little Green, was born in a small city in China in 1966, at the dawn of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. This is her story. There have been other memoirs written about this period in Chinese history, but what makes this one unique is the age of the author. A baby when the Red Guards first started roaming the streets, she was ten when Chairman Mao died. She brings a different perspective to the subject than someone would who was older at the time. Because the turmoil, struggle, and separation her family experienced was all she ever knew, she takes it mostly in stride. She tells her story in free verse poetry containing little snippets of information about her daily life and perceptions of the world. Because children, especially small children remember in snippets, this poetic presentation is a perfect vehicle for presenting her story. The downside is that there is not a lot of detail, and the reader dos not get a sense of the horror of the time. But this also makes this book a much easier read, and a wonderful complement to those more substantial works. 2005, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Ages 10 up.
—Pat Trattles
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Xiao Qing, or Little Green, was born at the very beginning of the Cultural Revolution, and when she turned 10, Chairman Mao died. Because her father worked in the city before he was sent to the countryside for re-education and her mother taught first in a country school and later in the city, Little Green and her two siblings lived much of their younger years with their grandmother. This memoir, written as poetry, chronicles her daily life and reveals her perceptions of the world. Her story is revealed in snippets, much the way one remembers scenes from the distant past. The earlier poems reflect the emotions and fears of a young child while the later poems show an increasing awareness of the meaning of what is taking place. While poetry is an excellent vehicle for a memoir of this sort, the verse itself is uneven in quality. The author is at her best when describing life in the country where many of her depictions of the natural world are lyrical and full of beauty. The form works less well in the more narrative parts, where the poetry is not far removed from prose. Ji-Li Jiang's Red Scarf Girl (HarperCollins, 1997) and Da Chen's China's Son (Delacorte, 2001) also tell the story of young people living through this era. What makes Little Green slightly different is the younger age of the protagonist and the immediacy of the experience provided by the poetry. As such, it complements and extends those more substantial narratives.-Barbara Scotto, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, MA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Born the year that the Cultural Revolution started, Little Green bore witness through her entire childhood to this terrible time in China's history. With her father sent away for reeducation, she and her siblings were split at different times between her grandmother in the countryside, or with her mother in the city. Told in free verse that successfully evokes the setting and emotion of a child's view, the story follows Little Green through moments of her first ten years, giving readers a highly engaging peephole into a very different kind of childhood. For a similar audience as Ji-Li Jiang's Red Scarf Girl (1997), readers will find Chun Yu's autobiographical story a completely different reading experience, and will appreciate this debut of a vivid and lyrical voice. (Fiction. 10-adult)
From the Publisher
"Little Green is a miracle-such beauty emerging from the chaos of the Cultural Revolution. A clear-eyed child is born into a surrealistic China, and tells her story. Chun Yu's poetry creates sense and order that readers young and old, Eastern and Western, will appreciate."
-Maxine Hong Kingston

Product Details

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
Publication date:
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Sales rank:
900L (what's this?)
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Little Green

  • Meet the Author

    Chun Yu was born in China in May 1966. After graduating from Peking University, she moved to the United States to pursue her PhD and a career in science. She now works as a principal scientist in a medical company Chun Yu lives in San Rafael, California.

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