Study Guide for Psychology / Edition 3

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Overview


Spider Eaters is at once a moving personal story, a fascinating family history, and a unique chronicle of political upheaval told by a Chinese woman who came of age during the turbulent years of the Cultural Revolution. With stunning honesty and a lively, sly humor, Rae Yang records her life from her early years as the daughter of Chinese diplomats in Switzerland, to her girlhood at an elite middle school in Beijing, to her adolescent experience as a Red Guard and later as a laborer on a pig farm in the remote northern wilderness. She tells of her eventual disillusionment with the Maoist revolution, how remorse and despair drove her almost to suicide, and how she struggled to make sense of conflicting events that often blurred the line between victim and victimizer, aristocrat and peasant, communist and counterrevolutionary. Moving gracefully between past and present, dream and reality, the author artfully conveys the vast complexity of life in China as well as the richness, confusion, and magic of her own inner life and struggle.
Much of the power of the narrative derives from Yang's multi-generational, cross-class perspective. She invokes the myths, legends, folklore, and local customs that surrounded her and brings to life the many people who were instrumental in her life: her nanny, a poor woman who raised her from a baby and whose character is conveyed through the bedtime tales she spins; her father; her beloved grandmother, who died as a result of the political persecution she suffered.
Spanning the years from 1950 to 1980, Rae Yang's story is evocative, complex, and told with striking candor. It is one of the most immediate and engaging narratives of life in post-1949 China.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Yang, assistant professor of East Asian studies at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., spent her early years in Switzerland as the daughter of a Chinese diplomat, and returned to Beijing in the mid-1950s. Although her father's background was upper-class, her parents were committed Communist Party members and educated Yang to become a Maoist revolutionary. This engrossing memoir deals with the cultural revolution of the 1960s, when Yang became a Red Guard who denounced adults she considered counterrevolutionaries. With other fanatic teens, she traveled the country spreading propaganda, raiding homes and inflicting beatings on anyone suspected of political disloyalty; one of these beatings led to the death of the victim. The author also describes friends and relatives who influenced her, vividly invoking her upper-class grandmother, who shared a rich heritage of folktales with Yang. After spending several years as a farm laborer, Yang began to question the revolution and made her way back to Beijing and eventually to the United States. Photos. (Apr.) FYI: The title refers to those driven to eat anything they can find, especially during hard times such as the famine, or Three-Year Natural Calamity, of 1959-1962.
Library Journal
Currently an assistant professor of East Asian studies at Dickinson College, Yang was born in 1950 to parents who were cadres in the Chinese Communist party. She spent her preschool years in Switzerland and elementary school years in China during a famine. Yang attended one of the most prestigious middle schools in Beijing, became a Red Guard, and worked on a pig farm and out in the fields with the peasants. In her memoir, she explores the question of whether she was ever loved and whether she was worthy of love from her parents, nanny, aunt, and grandmother. She describes how women were regarded as jiashu (disposable dependents) by the so-called egalitarian Communist party and how she acted out her revenge on those who imposed hierarchy and formality. For historians and scholars, Yang's book offers a depth of detail on coming of age during the Chinese Cultural Revolution that is unrivaled among other recent memoirs (see especially Anchee Min's Red Azalea, LJ 12/93). Highly recommended for all libraries.Peggy Spitzer Christoff, Oak Park, Ill.
Kate Gilbert
"Rae Yang's Spider Eaters is a memoir of youthful passions recollected in cold blood by a very precise and adult writer. Yang's intentions are, from the first, public and political: she wishes to be, for us, a "Spider Eater,"...that refers to those unknown ancestral heroes who, having tried eating something poisonous (in her case, the Cultural Revolution), have left us a record of their actions as a warning....No political novel I have ever read...has made me so clearly understand the seductive nature of the political as this woman's honest indictment of her girl's life in China." -- The Women's Review of Books
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780205153466
  • Publisher: Pearson
  • Publication date: 5/2/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 945,072
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Rae Yang is Associate Professor of East Asian Studies at Dickinson College.
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Read an Excerpt

Spider Eaters

A Memoir
By Rae Yang

The University of California Press

ISBN: 0-520-21598-2


Chapter One

Spider Eaters is at once a moving personal story, a fascinating family history, and a unique chronicle of political upheaval told by a Chinese woman who came of age during the turbulent years of the Cultural Revolution. With stunning honesty and a lively, sly humor, Rae Yang records her life from her early years as the daughter of Chinese diplomats in Switzerland, to her girlhood at an elite middle school in Beijing, to her adolescent experience as a Red Guard and later as a laborer on a pig farm in the remote northeast. She tells of her eventual disillusionment with the Maoist revolution, how doubts, anger, remorse, and despair drove her almost to suicide, and how she struggled to make sense of conflicting events that often blurred the line between victim and victimizer, hero and coward, communist and counterrevolutionary. Moving gracefully between past and present, dream and reality, the author artfully conveys the vast complexity of life in China as well as the richness, confusion, and magic of her own inner life and struggle. Much of the power of the narrative derives from Yang's multi-generational, cross-class perspective. She invokes the legends, folklore, and local customs that surrounded her and brings to life the many people who were instrumental in her life: her nanny, a poor woman of great kindness and inner strength;her father, a disillusioned old cadre; her beloved grandmother, who died as a result of the political persecution she suffered. Spanning the years from 1950 to 1980, Rae Yang's candidly told story is unique and yet typical of the the sixties generation in China. It is one of the most immediate and engaging narratives of life in post-1949 China.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Spider Eaters by Rae Yang Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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