Girl Under a Red Moon: Growing Up During China’s Cultural Revolution by Da Chen

Hello, Da Chen! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read.! Thank you for stopping by to share the cover for Girl Under a Red Moon: Growing Up During China’s Cultural Revolution. What ran through your head (or heart) the first time you saw Chi-Fong Lei’s cover illustration?

Da Chen: I was so happy to see the cover. It's very original and beautiful! The watercolor painting fits the Chinese setting, especially in South China where it rains all the time. It takes a deep understanding of the era and Chinese culture to create something so wonderful.

Scenario: You’re walking through the Exhibits Hall at the California Reading Association’s Annual Conference when a teacher-librarian spots you holding a copy of Girl Under a Red Moon. He asks you what it is about. You are on your way to a luncheon, but you have time to deliver at least a 30-second booktalk. What do you say?

Da Chen: This is about my sister's life growing up in China during the violent Cultural Revolution. Our family were former landowners, who became politically disgraced and persecuted.

At the age of 13, my sister is thrown out of high school during a political purge. To escape being put in jail, she is sent away to an idyllic back-country farming school, but the curse follows her even there. Her youth is ruined as she leaves school to work as a farm laborer. But she survives. The Revolution ends, and she finds love. 

Please finish the following sentence starters: 

Sisi, Jin, Keke, and Huang Huang are my siblings. I'm the youngest of five. My sister, Sisi, is the eldest. My brother, Jin, is next, followed by my sisters, Keke and Huang Huang. We were as five ducklings always linked together growing up. Sisi was the mother duckling, who carried me on her back and held my sisters' hands, with Jin following in back, guarding us. We traveled country roads, clamored down riverbanks, climbed hills, and caught frogs in wet rice fields while Sisi did family chores.

My grandfather used to be a wealthy landlord, who lost everything when the Communist rebels defeated Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Army and took control of China. The new Community Party changed all the rules: rich was bad, and poor was good. They took all our land and money, and persecuted our family. Grandpa and Dad were frequently imprisoned. Some days, we would have no food; others days, we could only afford to eat moldy yams.

Children of a poor family do not need to be told what to do. We suffered in silence, humbly, with no complaints.

Sisi was my mother figure, feeding and carrying me. We kids were a small family nestling under our larger family umbrella, with Mom, Dad, and my grandparents above us. Sometimes the five of us just wandered around our little village of Yellow Stone all day. Those were good days. We were inseparable. 

I hope Girl Under a Red Moon will give young readers a glimpse of my sister's life during the tumultuous times of China's Cultural Revolution-- not just the ugly side of persecution, but also the beauty and love and friendship we found during this hard time.

This story is about family and loved ones, survival in the face of great hardship, and the irrepressibility of the human spirit.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what happened to my sisters and my brother after China's Cultural Revolution ended.

During the turmoil of the Revolution, Sisi, Keke, and Huang Huang were all expelled from school in their early teens. But notwithstanding the persecution of our childhood, God was good, guiding and guarding us. Sisi remained a farmer, but found love, and is now a grandma with two college-educated children. Jin became a successful accountant in Nanping. Keke came to America with her husband, daughter, and widowed mother; her daughter is a dentist in New York. Huang Huang is a prosperous jewelry merchant in the city of Su Zhou; her daughter is a well-known painter and her son is a top scientist at Xiamen University. All went on to be well. 

Look for Girl Under a Red Moon on September 3, 2019.


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