The theme of the book is to bring out the cultural revolution of China in the twentieth century. In the book, Juang Chang narrates the story of her life from her past three generations. The first generation is her grandmother, Yu Fang, who was raised by a peasant family.
Her family married her off as a concubine to a Warlord General, but Yu Fang ran off from her husband’s family with her daughter, and was remarried to Dr. Xia from Manchuria. When the daughter, De Hong grew up, she joined the Communist Party of China as their employee because she believed the party could bring equality to the chinese people. This is where she met her husband who was also in the Communist Party. This is how Chang was born to Communist parents.
Political changes in China
Through all the three generations of Chang’s grandmother, mother and herself, China was going through numerous political changes. As women, it was hard going through the changes because they were not recognized in society.
The author uses her own, and her extended family’s personal experiences, to bring out the problems that chinese people were going through during those times. She also brings out the changing politics of China through post-imperialism to communism giving the history of China.
During the lifetime of these three women, China goes through different phases of cultural change. First, it was imperial China until the Japanese occupied the land. The Japanese rule lasted during the life of Chang’s grandmother. The Japanese were cruel, and they could execute even children.
The Japanese were kicked out of China then the Sovient took over who did not treat the chinese any better. Next, the communists occupied China then the Kuomintang when Chang’s mother was a teenager. These times were difficult for De Hong and her family, and so De Hong got a job from the communists. Basic commodities such as food were scarce, and the military would often attack the people.
In one instance when De Hong was married, they had to travel a long distance with the husband when they were moving to a new area. The husband used a vehicle and let his wife trek the whole distance. De Hong was then pregnant but miscarried owing to the fatigue from the long journey.
The husband could not even show compassion to his own wife. The incident raised a lot of questions on De Hong’s head about the love of his husband. At a point of her political career, De Hong works at the Public Affairs department and, is appointed the head whose main job is to feed people.
Chang’s parents were part of the communists, and so the people were against them. Chang had joined the Red Guards under the rulership of Mao, but she did not do some of the hurtful things they did. Finally, Mao died, and was mourned by a vast populace.
The writing of this book helps the reader to get historical information about china, but the experiences of the generation of one family can not be generalized to be of the rest of the citizens. This family was placed at an advantage because of the political influence. The author belonged to a communist family that were the oppressors of the same people they were fighting to liberate.
Another flaw of this book is the vivid descriptions of all the events that took place. Although she has brought out the struggle of China, certain information could have been left out, and the message would not be distorted.