The narrator/main character/author of this fantastic YA novel is Ji-li Jiang who lived the first ten years of her life feeling very lucky. As she describes her childhood in the beginning of the book, the reader is indeed treated to Ji-li Jiang’s description of a very lucky life. A loving and close family, a cozy home in a wonderful neighborhood, an intelligent student who is favored by her teachers, Student Council President, athletic…But after the first chapter, we begin to feel the winds of change turning against Ji-li Jiang and her family. Ji-li and her family are staunch supporters of Chairman Mao and Cultural Revolution; however, that doesn’t prevent persecution as extremists take over and become more influential. We learn that Ji-li’s family is considered capitalists and become labeled as a “black family.” This is the result of Ji-li’s late grandfather having once been a landlord. The remainder of the book is the tale of the family’s hard times.
This book is appropriate for grades 5-8. A brief introduction into the Cultural Revolution and Chinese culture would be helpful, especially for the younger students. I highly recommend this book to introduce students to this culture, and time in history.