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.
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