Snow Falling in Spring: Coming of Age in China During the Cultural Revolution

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Overview

Most people cannot remember when their childhood ended. I, on the other hand, have a crystal-clear memory of that moment. It happened at night in the summer of 1966, when my elementary school headmaster hanged himself.

In 1966 Moying, a student at a prestigious language school in Beijing, seems destined for a promising future. Everything changes when student Red Guards begin to orchestrate brutal assaults, violent public humiliations, and forced confessions. After watching her ...

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2008 Hard cover First edition. New in new dust jacket. Glued binding. Cloth over boards. With dust jacket. 176 p. Contains: Illustrations. Melanie Kroupa Books. Audience: Young ... adult. First printing. Full number line from 1 to 10. Read more Show Less

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Snow Falling in Spring: Coming of Age in China During the Cultural Revolution

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Overview

Most people cannot remember when their childhood ended. I, on the other hand, have a crystal-clear memory of that moment. It happened at night in the summer of 1966, when my elementary school headmaster hanged himself.

In 1966 Moying, a student at a prestigious language school in Beijing, seems destined for a promising future. Everything changes when student Red Guards begin to orchestrate brutal assaults, violent public humiliations, and forced confessions. After watching her teachers and headmasters beaten in public, Moying flees school for the safety of home, only to witness her beloved grandmother denounced, her home ransacked, her father’s precious books flung onto the back of a truck, and Baba himself taken away. From labor camp, Baba entrusts a friend to deliver a reading list of banned books to Moying so that she can continue to learn. Now, with so much of her life at risk, she finds sanctuary in the world of imagination and learning.

This inspiring memoir follows Moying Li from age twelve to twenty-two, illuminating a complex, dark time in China’s history as it tells the compelling story of one girl’s difficult but determined coming-of-age during the Cultural Revolution.

 

Snow Falling in Spring is a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“At its essence, this is a book about the value of reading—to escape, to learn, to be sustained and to grow.” —The New York Times Book Review

“The simple, direct narrative will grab readers with the eloquent account of daily trauma and hope.” —Booklist, Starred Review

“Li effectively builds the climate of fear that accompanies the rise of the Red Guard... Sketches about her grandparents root the narrative within a broader context of Chinese traditions as well as her own family's values, establishing a basis for Li's later portrayal of the individuals around her who respond to oppression with hope and faith in knowledge and education.” —Starred, Publishers Weekly

“Beautifully written...offers a somewhat broader view of a nation in turmoil and illustrates the grit and determination necessary for survival in a dysfunctional society.” —School Library Journal

“The narrative will enable readers to sympathize with Li and feel relief when she leaves to study at Swarthmore College after ten years of education in China.” Kirkus Reviews

Snow Falling in Spring joins other important books about the Cultural Revolution . . . as childhood testimonies to national trauma, cautionary tales for our own time, and appreciations for homes, old and new.” San Francisco Chronicle

Publishers Weekly

Recalling 2007's Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party, a fictionalized autobiography by Ying Chang Compestine, this memoir also offers a highly personal look at China's Cultural Revolution. The author is four years old when Mao initiates the Great Leap Forward in 1958, and she describes the transformation of the family's shared, once lovely courtyard as the neighbors follow orders to erect a brick furnace and feed it all their metals in an attempt to produce iron and steel. Everyone, including the child narrator, willingly cooperates, but the instructions are flawed and everything is ruined. The episode prefigures what follows: diligence is repaid with destruction, obedience with chaos, loyalty with treachery. Li effectively builds the climate of fear that accompanies the rise of the Red Guard, while accounts of her headmaster's suicide and the pulping of her father's book collection give a harrowing, closeup view of the persecution. Sketches about her grandparents root the narrative within a broader context of Chinese traditions as well as her own family's values, establishing a basis for Li's later portrayal of the individuals around her who respond to oppression with hope and faith in knowledge and education. B&w family photos reinforce the intimate perspective. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Renee Farrah
Reports of family imprisonment, death, betrayal of people she thought she once knew, endless control of everyday life, were all commonplace in Moying Li's life during China's Cultural Revolution. Intimidation was often the weapon of choice, followed by destruction of personal and public property. Even siblings of school friends joined the Red Guards, Chairman Mao's youth group helped uphold Mao's teachings and instructions through brute force, threats, and hostility. Li's close family, teachers, and friends were all targeted, and political sentiments threatened to prevent Li from achieving a once in a lifetime opportunity. Although Li is not the outgoing protagonist that is organizing protests, she fights back in her own way. She reads banned books from a list supplied by her educated, imprisoned father, which include all of Shakespeare's writings, fairy tales, Jack London's Call of the Wild, Mark Twain's stories of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, respectively, as well as others from Russian, British, and American literature. Li continues to secretly educate herself, despite the fact her school, job, and location are assigned to her. As the major events begin in the mid 1960s, it is interesting to learn about a historical event that is not too far removed from today. The writing is so steady and calm; it only creates a larger contrast to the jarring events and gruesome disregard for humanity. This is a fantastic way to use history to stir up emotion and discussion about government control, loyalty, choice, and civil rights. Reviewer: Renee Farrah
Patricia E. Ackerman
Coming of age in 20th Century China, Moying Li's memoir illuminates the power of the human spirit to rise above adversity. Through her own childhood memories, Li recounts her family's survival through China's "Great Leap Forward," the Red Guard, and, ultimately, the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Li's character is molded by her grandmother's unconditional love and her father's profound faith in the power of education. It is through their teachings that Li navigates the turbulent waters of change. Li's unpretentious prose gently reveals the unreasonable demands placed upon the Chinese people across multiple generations. In a moving account of how her people not only survived, but rose above treacherous adversity, Li renews the reader's faith in the powers of both love and knowledge. A poignant literary account of cultural evolution. Reviewer: Patricia E. Ackerman
School Library Journal

Gr 6-9- In 1958, four-year-old Moying Li lived with her extended family in a hutong , a neighborhood of traditional courtyard houses, in Beijing. By the fall of that year, the Great Leap Forward had begun, and their courtyard had been transformed by the addition of a huge brick furnace where family and neighbors worked unceasingly, throwing in bits of scrap metal, which produced only a useless, inferior steel. In her engaging memoir of growing up in China, Li tells the story of her family's efforts first to follow with enthusiasm Chairman Mao's dictates and then to comply with them despite disillusionment and fear. In 1963, when she was nine, Li went to the Foreign Language School, where she thrived. Her life changed in 1966, the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, when her beloved teachers were attacked by Red Guards and the headmaster of the school hanged himself. Her mother had been sent to the countryside to teach, and eventually her father was denounced and packed off to a labor camp. This beautifully written memoir joins a growing body of literature, such as Ji-Li Jiang's Red Scarf Girl (HarperCollins, 1997) and Chen Yu's Little Green (S & S, 2005), about life in China during the Cultural Revolution. Because this book starts with the Great Leap Forward and extends beyond the end of the Cultural Revolution, it offers a somewhat broader view of a nation in turmoil and illustrates the grit and determination necessary for survival in a dysfunctional society.-Barbara Scotto, Children's Literature New England, Brookline, MA

Kirkus Reviews
When Li was 12 years old, the Chinese Cultural Revolution began and changed life in that nation. For Li and her family, the peaceful situation, in which several generations of the family lived together in harmony, changed precipitously. Mao's revolution destroyed family customs and life. Members of educated, comfortable families who lacked political influence (like Li's) were forced into reeducation according to Communist principles. Her father was sent to a Labor Camp and she went to boarding schools some distance from Beijing. Her education was thorough but strict. The Red Guards controlled life, destroying her father's valuable library, forcing false confessions, denouncing people and punishing them in public-a dictatorship of thugs. Told in the first person, the narrative will enable readers to sympathize with Li and feel relief when she leaves to study at Swarthmore College after ten years of education in China. Combined with The Diary of Ma Yan (2005), readers can begin to know about education and life in modern China. (chronology, glossary) (Nonfiction. 12-16)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374399221
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 3/18/2008
  • Series: Melanie Kroupa Bks.
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 192
  • Age range: 12 - 18 Years
  • Lexile: 1020L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.09 (w) x 8.19 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

MOYING LI, one of the first students to leave China for study abroad after the Cultural Revolution, came to the United States in 1980 on a full scholarship from Swarthmore College. She holds an M.A., an M.B.A., and a Ph.D. She lives in Boston and Beijing.

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Read an Excerpt

From Snow Falling in Spring

In front of Baba’s eyes, they flung book after book onto the stone floor. One of them reached into a lower shelf for Baba’s rare books. Dragging them out by their silk strings, he yanked them open.

“Please,” Baba pleaded, trying to free himself from the hands of his guard. “Don’t touch those.”

The guard pulled Baba’s arms back and tied a rope around them.

Then the soldiers dumped all our books into large hemp sacks that they pulled from the back of the truck. “The paper factory will turn this trash into pulp in no time,” they announced. When Lao Lao tried to plead with them, a soldier just pushed her away. Dragging the sacks through our gate, they flung them, one after another, onto the open truck. Then, hurling Baba on top of the bulging bags, the soldiers drove away in a cloud of dust, leaving my grandmother filled with sorrow . . .

With our neighbors’ help, I cleared the rubble. After everyone had left, I closed the door and all the windows and sank to the cold stone floor, my face buried in my arms. The sun was setting, and darkness was creeping into the house.

Our bookshelves now stood naked in the shadows— like proud but defeated old warriors.

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Table of Contents

Foreword xi

Prologue xv

The Great Leap 3

Starvation 13

Lao Lao and Lao Ye 22

The Gathering Storm 42

Home No More 61

House Search 78

Mongolian Melody 86

Secret Reading Club 98

Coming of Age 109

Hunan Mummy 116

A Life Assigned 122

Temple of the Sun 129

The Awakening 140

Turning Point 151

Epilogue 165

A Chronology 166

Glossary 169

Acknowledgments 174

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Interviews & Essays

A Message from the Author

I feel very fortunate that my memoir, Snow Falling in Spring, will be published just a few months before the 2008 Olympic Games, which will be held in the city of my birth -- Beijing.

As Pierre de Coubertin, the modern father of the Olympic Movement, once said, "The foundation of real human morality lies in mutual respect -- and to respect one another it is necessary to know one another." The 2008 Beijing Olympics, and the time leading up to it, offers an unprecedented chance for China to interact and communicate with the rest of the world.

Overall, from the increasing media focus to the fast-growing commercial and cultural interactions, it is evident that the world has fixed its eye on China for quite some time. This attention will only intensify with the Summer Olympics. It's estimated that 4.5 million people from around the world will visit Beijing in 2008, in addition to billions of others who will tune in via satellite television.

I believe that, in true Olympic spirit, a better understanding of human commonality and shared vision will emerge from this engagement. And I hope my book, in a small way, will help toward reaching that goal.

China has undergone remarkable transformations since I left it in 1980 to go to college in the United States. Back then, China was rather isolated from the Western world -- having just emerged from the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution. Now, in the space of only two decades, China has become the third-largest economy in the world, and soon it will surpass those of Europe and North America combined.

With opportunities come new challenges -- issues many Western countries also encountered during their industrialization process, including: how to preserve the architectural and other cultural heritages in the race for urbanization; how to come to grips with such environmental issues as pollution and traffic congestion; how to handle the social-economic impact of a vast migration of people from the country to the cities.

There is a lot of thinking and work ahead for China, but China will never be alone again. By reflecting upon its own past, and learning from the experience and expertise of other international communities, China stands a much better chance now than ever before. And as someone who has lived in both China and the United States for the same amount of time, I am hoping to offer my experiences and the perspectives generously given to me by both countries through my memoir, Snow Falling in Spring. --Moyong Li
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 30, 2012

    Charming story that makes the Cultural Revolution come alive

    I read this book as it is on the reading list at my daughter's middle school. I can see how it would be appealing to teens learning about China's Cultural Revolution. The fact that it was written by someone who had actually lived through it makes the memoir even more appealing. Strongly recommend for teens and adults alike.

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    Posted January 8, 2011

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    Posted September 12, 2010

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