Goodreads recommended this book after I read Jung Chang’s amazing saga of her family’s Chinese history in Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. Jan Wong’s book is an account of her journey as a Canadian-raised daughter of Chinese descent, to a young woman who travels to China ready to embrace the Maoist ideal.
Following high school in 1972, Jan Wong was selected by the Chinese government as one of two western international students to attend Beijing University. From the outset, although she thoroughly embraced the Chinese cultural revolution, she knew she was being treated differently. She and the other “foreign” students didn’t have it nearly as rough as the native students, and it wasn’t long until Wong started demanding equal treatment. (After relinquishing the private chef and eating in the cafeteria with the rest of the students, Wong admits it was the first time she realized there was such a thing as terrible Chinese food!) The Chinese government obviously thought they would be able to use Wong as part of their propaganda towards the west, and for awhile they were correct. Eventually, Wong’s eyes to opened to the reality of the Maoist government, and then felt stabbed in the back when she learned that her Chinese friends didn’t actually believe the communist nonsense they had been spouting in front of her for years. They were just too afraid to contradict Mao’s platform.
The book continues through Wong’s marriage to an American who dodged the draft during the Vietnam War, their subsequent repatriation to the west, and her eventual return to Beijing as a journalist. Her coverage of the Tiananmen Square Massacre was especially informative and moving.
This was an excellent memoir, filled in insight, humor and drama. I highly recommend this one!
5 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1997