Novel: Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution
Author: Ji-li Jiang
Target Audience: 11-15 years; 5th-9th grade
Publication Year: 1998
Setting: Shanghai, China; begins in 1966, start of the Cultural Revolution
A Favorite Quote: “Many friends have asked me why, after all I went through, I did not hate Chairman Mao and the Cultural Revolution in those years. The answer is simple: We were all brainwashed.”
My One Sentence Summary: Ji-li recounts her experiences during the tumultuous years of the Chinese Cultural Revolution when she and her family are targeted by former friends and neighbor’s for being “bourgeois.”
What I loved about this book: I could not put this book down. I was completely engrossed by Ji-li’s vivid and often heartbreaking depictions of life in China during the Cultural Revolution. Though the history surrounding the memoir will likely be unfamiliar to many young readers, Ji-li’s straightforward account of her experiences makes the book and its history very accessible.
Major themes: Abuse of power by those in authority; individuality versus conformity; the search for self and identity; loyalty to family pitted against loyalty to one’s nation
Who should read this book: This is a great book for readers who love history and true stories. It will probably resonate most with readers mature enough to process the painful experiences of a child caught in the middle of a national upheaval which led to public humiliation and violence.