Wild Swans, by Jung Chang, is a non-fiction work about three generations of Chinese women, beginning in the early 20th century. Jung’s grandmother had bound feet, was sold as a concubine, and lived through the Kuomintang Revolution, The Cultural Revolution and The Great leap Forward. (None of them were as grand as they sound!) Her experiences are unbelievable to a modern American woman like myself.
Jung’s mother helped the Communists defeat the Kuomintang, joined the Communist Party and dedicated herself to the Motherland. The Communists seemed like a good idea at the time, but Mom eventually became disillusioned. She suffered separation from husband and children, humiliation by her colleagues, detainment and hard labor. Her experiences are incomprehensible to a modern American woman like myself.
Jung was raised by devoted and dedicated parents, who cared for their family deeply, and believed the best thing they could do for their children was make the Motherland the best it could be. Jung’s life is a stark narrative on Mao, what worked and what did not under his rule. (Actually, nothing worked!) I learned so much about Chinese history and the reality of Chinese Communism from Jung. She shares her indoctrination of Mao’s deification, how her life changed each time a new program was introduced and also suffered filial separation and hard labor. But she was able to persevere and eventually became one of the first Chinese students allowed to study abroad. (And she only went back to visit!) Her experiences are unimaginable to a modern American woman like myself.
This is a terrific book. There is so much to be learned from Jung Chang about modern Chinese history and that is important, because we rarely have access to factual historical accounts from China. A great commentary on why Americans do not want to pursue Communism!!