The summer of 1972, before I turned nine, danger began knocking on doors all over China.
Nine-year-old Ling has a very happy life. Her parents are both dedicated surgeons at the best hospital in Wuhan, and her father teaches her English as they listen to Voice of America every evening on the radio. But when one of Mao's political officers moves into a room in their apartment, Ling begins to witness the gradual disintegration of her world. In an atmosphere of increasing mistrust and hatred, Ling fears for the safety of her neighbors, and soon, for herself and her family. For the next four years, Ling will suffer more horrors than many people face in a lifetime. Will she be able to grow and blossom under the oppressive rule of Chairman Mao? Or will fighting to survive destroy her spirit—and end her life?
Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party is a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
Picture book and cookbook author Compestine (The Real Story of Stone Soup) turns to 1972 China as the setting for her first YA novel. Eight-year-old Ling, the spunky daughter of two doctors, lives in Wuhan, China; dreamy and idealistic, she often describes her world in metaphor (about her neighbor, Ling notes, "Mrs. Wong was fragrant and warm like a red peony, which always welcomed visitors"). But the lives of Ling and her family are disrupted when Comrade Li, an officer of the Communist Party, moves into their apartment. Difficulties mount as friends and neighbors disappear, Ling's father is arrested and she endures vicious tormenting at school because of her "bourgeois" background ("At times I wished my family was poor and my parents worked on a vegetable farm... so I could have friends. But if my parents worked on a farm, who would treat their patients?"). Although her father has been jailed, her family starved and their books burned, Ling fights to keep her long hair, a symbol of dignity and individualism to her, though her classmates see it as emblematic of Ling's "privilege." Ling survives on wit, hope and courage until the death of Chairman Mao, after which she and her mother have a joyful reunion with Ling's father. Readers should remain rapt by Compestine's storytelling throughout this gripping account of life during China's Cultural Revolution. Ages 10-up.
Revolution is Not a Dinner Party
Excellent book! I was looking for books I could use for a class with middle and high school students about different revolutions. I had several choices for the French and Russian revolutions, but didn't even know much about the Communist revolution in China and wanted to include China. I accidentally came across Revolution is Not a Dinner Party and passed it up at first. I am so glad I returned to read it!! There is a wealth of history shared within an extremely compelling story. The protagonist's youth and naïveté are the perfect source for an introduction to the Chinese Cultural Revolution which I ashamed lay admit I knew nothing about before reading this book. I have already purchased the author's Secret of the Terra Cotta soldier and look forward to more introduction to more Chinese history. I believe Revolution is Not a Dinner Party will pique my students' interest in Chinese history just as it has done for my own.