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Author Ji-li Jiang visits Brush High School

By Lisa Hubler

Wednesday, May 8, Charles F. Brush High School welcomed Ji-li Jiang, author of Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution. Jiang spoke to a group of about 250 students from Memorial Junior High School and Brush High School. The author was treated to a luncheon hosted by students from Hui-Ling Haldeman's Advanced Chinese class. During her talk, Jiang, who was born in Shanghai in 1954, spoke of spending her early childhood in a warm and loving home. She excelled in school and had a bright future, but when China's Communist leader, Mao Ze-dong launched the Cultural Revolution, her life changed drastically. Jiang shared images and stories about her difficult childhood experiences under Chairman Mao's regime. She recounted the ridicule and threats her family endured as the descendants of wealthy landlords. Jiang also shared her life since moving to the United States in 1984. She studied Travel Industry Management at The University of Hawaii, and worked as a Corporate Operation Analyst and Budgeting Director. In 1992, she co-founded East West Exchange, a company that promotes and facilitates cultural and business exchange between China and western countries. In 2003, she started a non- profit organization, Cultural Exchange International. In addition to Red Scarf girl, Jiang has authored several children's books, and continues to write and speak at schools and conferences. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area, very close to her mother. Her father, an actor, who goes by the stage name of Henry O, continues to act in American films. Jiang was brought to the Cleveland area by the group Facing History and Ourselves, an organization dedicated to encouraging reflection on the historical consequences of bigotry, injustice and hatred.
 

 

Red Scarf Girl Report

by Leah Fox

Background Research:

Originally Chairman Mao was a less dynamic leader and feared loss of power. He believed China was turning to Capitalism and thought the wealthy did not understand the life of a working class person. The movement began in September 1965 with a speech and grew from there. Mao worked to create a society without classes and where all were equal. Mao gained followers called the Red Guards. He destroyed four olds (old customs, habits, culture, and thinking) and used the children to enforce and support his views. Schools and teachers were targeted and all those part of the wealthy class. If you walked on the street and wore four old clothing Red Guards would ruin them in front of many spectators. Many were beaten and many were driven to suicide in fear of being targeted. Mao died September of 1976, the same year the movement ended.
    Red Scarf Girl is a book about the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Jiang Ji-Li is a young girl living through the reign of Chairman Mao and his followers, called the Red Guards. Mao is working to regain communism and destroy four olds. Jiang Ji-Li and most other children throughout China have been taught and convinced that Mao ideas are correct. All Ji-Li wants to do is join the Red Guards. When she wants to try out for a spot in the liberation army she learns that her family is tainted. Her grandfather was a landlord; people who Mao and his followers believe take advantage of others and should be punished. As news of her ancestry leak Ji-Li is teased and whispered about in school. Her father is imprisoned and accused of being against the revolution. She is given the choice to turn against her crippled family and have a place in the revolutionary society or be ridiculed and punished for acts done before she was born. Ji-Li realizes that family comes first and she will do anything to protect them, whatever the cost.
    One event that to me seemed similar to the Cultural Revolution was the Holocaust. Both the Holocaust and the Cultural Revolution dealt with dictatorship, for one. Both Chairman Mao and Hitler convinced society that they were working for the better and both crushed opposition. The Revolution and the Holocaust also singled out groups. In the Revolution it was the 'black families' or the anti revolutionists. During the Holocaust it was the Jews and other religious groups. All the groups involoved in both events were punished physically and cut off from the world for the level of society they were born in. These events were encouraged until the death of their leaders when the realization of what had really happened swept over the people.
    As I read the book what struck me the most was how convinced the children were of Mao's ideas. Children were willing to slap and betray their own families in order to belong in Mao's society. This story could be a study of human nature. If you lived in a time where you suddenly went from the bottom of the totem pole to the top, or vice versa, what would you do? I do not feel I would betray my family but then again those children probably would've said the same before Mao came along. It just shows how influential he was and how scary it must have been to live in that time. I am thankful I do not.

 
Biography


Ji-li Jiang was born in Shanghai , China in 1954 and is the author of Red Scarf Girl , an autobiography in which she wrote about her hard childhood.
For over twenty years, Ji-li Jiang nursed her childhood memories of surviving the Cultural Revolution in China , and finally brought them to life in her first book Red Scarf Girl . Since its publication in 1997, Ji-li has been invited to speak at hundreds of schools and conferences. Following up the success of Red Scarf Girl, in 2001 she published her adaptation of the Chinese classic folklore Magical Monkey King- Mischief in Heaven , which was serialized in 140 newspapers in USA and received so warmly by children - both young and old - that it was published in book form the next year. In 2007, this lovely story was selected for International Literacy Day by World Association of Newspaper in Paris and was serialized in 17 countries worldwide.
Ji-li was a science teacher in Shanghai , China before she came to United States in 1984. She studied Travel Industry Management at University of Hawaii , and worked as a Corporate Operation Analyst and Budgeting Director. In 1992, she co-founded East West Exchange, a company that promotes and facilitates cultural and business exchanges between China and western countries. In 2003, she started a nonprofit organization, Cultural Exchange International to continue and expand the cultural exchanges she believes in.
Ji-li Jiang now lives in the San Francisco Bay area, which she considers home. Her father, whose stage name is Henry O , still appears in various films and her mother live next door to her so they can see each other every day. Besides writing, Ji-li continues to speak at schools and conferences about her books and native China . She also devotes time to various cultural exchange programs, including leading cultural trips to China for large groups. She believes that a better understanding among people around the world is the only route to global peace.
Awards
Published in October 1997, this memoir Red Scarf Girl has received many prestigious awards:
1998 Notable Children's Books (American Library Association)
1998 Best Books for Young Adults (American Library Association)
Best Books of 1997 (Publishers Weekly)
1997 The Year's Most Wonderful Children's Books (Parenting magazine)
1997 Books for Youth Editors' Choice (American Library Association Booklist)
1997 Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies (National Council for the Social Studies and Children's Book Council)
Lasting Connections of 1997 Book (American Library Association Book Links)
Junior Library Guild selection 1998
1998 Award for Children's Literature (Bay Area Book Reviewers Association)
1998 Parents' Choice Gold Award
1998 Story Book Award (The Parents' Choice) 1998 The Judy Lopez Memorial Award
1998 Books of Distinction (The River Bank Review)
1998 Nonfiction Honor List (VOYA's-Voice of Youth Advocates)
Outstanding Titles of 1997 (VOYA's "Books in the Middle Grade Readers")
1999-2000 Pennsylvania's Young Readers' Choice Award
 

 
 

 

 
 
 

 

 

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