Jung-ling's family considers her bad luck because her mother died giving birth to her. They discriminate against her and make her feel unwanted yet she yearns and continuously strives for her parents' love. Her stepmother is vindictive and cruel and her father dismissive. Jung-ling grows up to be an academic child, with a natural ability for writing. Only her aunt and grandfather offer her any love and kindness. The story is of survival in the light of the mental and physical cruelty of her stepmother and the disloyalty of her siblings. Jung-ling blossoms in spite of everything and the story ends as her father agrees to let her study in England.
A Puffin Modern Classic edition of this bestselling autobiography, celebrating ten years of publication.
Mah revisits the territory she covered in her adult bestseller, Falling Leaves, for this painful and poignant memoir aimed at younger readers. Blamed for the loss of her mother, who died shortly after giving birth to her, Mah is an outcast in her own family. When her father remarries and moves the family to Shanghai to evade the Japanese during WWII, Mah and her siblings are relegated to second-class status by their stepmother. They are given attic rooms in their big Shanghai home, they have nothing to wear but school uniforms, and they subsist on a bare-bones diet while their stepmother's children dine sumptuously. Mah finds escape from this emotionally barren landscape at school, but the academic awards she wins only enrage her jealous siblings and stepmother, and she is eventually torn from her aunt--her one champion--and shipped off to boarding school. That Mah eventually soars above her circumstances is proof of her strength of character. The author recreates moments of cruelty and victory so convincingly that readers will feel almost as if they're in the room with her. She never veers from a child's sensibility; the child in these pages rarely judges the actions of those around her, she's simply bent on surviving. Mah easily weaves details of her family's life alongside the traditions of China (e.g., her grandmother's bound feet) and the changes throughout the war years and subsequent Communist takeover. This memoir is hard to put down. Ages 12-up.