When he was 11 years old, Li Cunxin was selected from his peasant community and sent to Beijing to study dance at the Beijing Dance Academy. Mao’s Last Dancer is Li’s moving memoir of his rise from near starvation to being one of the top ballet dancers in the world.
Wow! What can I say about this wonderful book. I loved it from start to finish. Li Cunxin’s life is like a fairy tale. He was born into Communist China, taken away from his family at a young age, and given a gift that would change his life forever – dance. Li understood the only way he could help his family was by working hard at the Academy. He strove to be the best. Then one day he received an important opportunity. He was allowed to take part in a summer dance program in the United States. The memoir shows the world unveiling itself to Li as he realizes the grand deception Mao’s government has forced upon its people. He loves the freedom (and wealth!) of the West, and once tasting it, never wants to go back. Li’s defection to the United States in 1981 made world headlines.
This is a memoir that has all the elements I could ever want. It is gripping, inspirational and genuinely moving. I cheered for Li and I cried for him. This is a book I will definitely recommend to others.
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2003, 2009 (I read the updated version)