Flowing with the Pearl River: Memoir of a Red China Girl
Amy Chan Zhou's searing memoir about growing up in rural Communist China features descriptions of pastoral beauty and tales of the simple joys of raising farm animals or catching fish in a local river. However, her childhood is scarred by the primitive conditions, her family's everyday struggle to obtain food, and the horror of witnessing relatives being tortured on a stage during "public denouncing" meetings.
As the Communists take control of China in 1949, we follow the harrowing experiences of Chan Zhou's great-grandparents, grandparents, father, and mother during the 1950s, '60s, and '70s when landlords, business owners, artists, and scholars were branded as "bad elements" and "class enemies." As a teenager in the 1970s, while selling vegetables on the black market, Chan Zhou is accused of being a "little capitalist trader."
The death of Mao ultimately saves Chan Zhou from being sent to a detention center, and her family's destiny is forever altered by Deng Xiaoping's reform that allows her family to reunite in Hong Kong, and subsequently emigrate to the United States.
A blend of Wild Swans and The Red Scarf Girl, Flowing with the Pearl River is a vividly accurate portrayal of one family's painful experiences during Communism and the Cultural Revolution in China, and their eventual escape to freedom.
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About the Author
"Zhou chooses the Pearl River as her story's central emotional symbol. During times of displacement for Ah Jade's (the author's nickname) family, the river is a stark reminder of death as bloated bodies flow past her five-year-old eyes, and just a few pages later, her mother contemplates suicide by emptily peering into the water. But the river also provides fish for sustenance to the village and serves as a place to get swimming lessons. This emotional balancing act is the strength of Zhou's voice. . . . Zhou's narrative is marked with short, powerful moments of trauma, such as nervous breakdowns, physical deformities, uncontrollable crying, vacant stares, and musings on ghosts and souls. In a book of constant movement, Zhou's mother is the book's hero and moral center. After her birth during the Japanese occupation during WWII, she bears the brunt of peasant motherhood during Mao's reign. She keeps her daughters alive and does not let them join in on the emotionally-charged mobs that enforce revolutionary ideology and engage in the public shaming of political enemies. . . . The pacing is fast, and the book is stuffed to bursting with details. . . . For the curious reader of the Cultural Revolution era or of historical memoirs, you will find a quick and relatively affecting set of stories in its pages. . . . Fans of writing from the Chinese diaspora or memoirs will enjoy this."--Youth Services Book Review
"[Chan Zhou] never forgets to express her feelings and let readers feel the truth! . . . Her writing is exquisite. . . . You can feel the plot and heart of each and every paragraph of text."--Chinese American Voice
"Zhou's memory is precise and nuanced. . . . Perhaps only deeply compelling narratives, such as Flowing with the Pearl River, and skilled authors like Amy Chan Zhou can keep the lessons, experiences, and stories of our past alive."--Asia Media International