Monday, January 9, 2012

Revolution is Not a Dinner Party

My brother gave me this book for Christmas.  I'm so glad he did.  I really enjoyed the history lesson and the authentic voice of the main character.  It is the story of a young Chinese girl living under the brutal regime of Chairman Mao.  Although the book is historical fiction, it is based on the life experiences of the author, Ying Chang Compestine.

The novel tells the story of Ling, the daughter of a surgeon and a traditional Chinese medicine doctor during the oppressive final years of Chairman Mao's reign.  Ling's family lives without much political interference until one of Mao's officers moves into their apartment building.  Rapidly, things begin to deteriorate for Ling's family and neighbors.  Citizens are expected to wear Maoist clothing, sing songs of allegiance to Mao, and to give up creature comforts in the name of the revolution.  Then things really start getting bad.  Many of Ling's neighbors are persecuted and sent to labor camps.  Their families are separated and their property destroyed.  The Red Guards are terrorizing the city, beating citizens and humiliating them in public criticism meetings.  Food is scarce and all supplies are rationed.

Ling's world crumbles when her father is taken away.  She and her mother are left alone with no idea where her father has been taken, or if he is still alive.  Ling is attacked and bullied at school for being "bourgeois."  Scared for her father and frightened to stand up for herself and make things worse, Ling is emotionally paralyzed and depressed.  Ling ultimately decides to stand up for herself and her family and begins to push back against her oppressors.  She learns to barter for food, find information, and be true to herself and her beliefs.  Ling fights back and changes her world.

Revolution is Not a Dinner Party is a coming of age story of a young girl who discovers her own strength during one of the most oppressive periods in Chinese history.

If you are a history instructor, teaching about the Chinese Revolution and Chairman Mao's rule, I highly recommend using this book in your classroom.

Blog you later!

Ali B.


Blessy Mathew said...

Hi Ali! I came across your blog through the Comment Challenge. What a great review! I'm a fan of historical fiction and multicultural literature, so I will definitely put REVOLUTION IS NOT A DINNER PARTY on my "to reads" list.

Bill Kirk said...

Stopping by as part of the "comment challenge". Very nice review---gives a clear picture of the story. I haven't read this book but in some ways it sounds similar to a book our grandson read in middle school titled "Red Scarf Girl". Thanks for sharing the review.

Anonymous said...

It's been quite a while since I read this one! It was quite an enjoyable read! It's such a slight book that you don't expect it to pack such a punch.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Great review. I'm not a history teacher, but I'll definitely check this book out.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great book@!

mary kinser said...

Sounds like a great read - I'm always looking for new historicals and unique slants on familiar events.

Ms. Yingling said...

I have this book in my library and it has been very interesting to the students, who usually haven't yet studied this period of time yet.

ess711 said...

Hi Ali,
Thank you for the suggestion on the "Revolution is Not a Dinner Party. Will definitely look into it and I am happy to hear you dropped by the "snuggery".
Now that I've visited your site I will put it on my list.
Let me know how your child enjoys "The Runaway Wok".
Liz Shanks

RussellB said...

This book is sad and makes you glad that you don't live during a revolution.