Monday, August 11, 2008

My Name is Number 4 by Ting-Xing Ye

Rating: 4
genre: Young Adult Memoir

Ting-Xing grew up during a particularly bleak time of China's modern history: the Cultural Revolution. Despite her family's incredibly poor circumstances (with both of her parents dead and five children to feed), in middle school she is labeled "bourgeoisie" is tormented and ridiculed because her father had owned a factory before the communist take over. As the political climate gets more and more fevered, Ting-Xing is soon exiled to a prison camp as a laborer, to help "ease overpopulation in the city" and life in the camp is, if possible, even less pleasant than in the city.

One of Ting-Xing's strengths as a writer is her ability to really capture her teenage self. I think teenager readers will relate to her experiences because beyond the horrific and disturbing experiences, she includes details that still concern teens today (relationships with siblings, the horrors of menstruation, guilt and loss). Not only that, it also makes plain that often during the cultural revolution it was teens and very young adults who turned against their friends and classmates (this is consistent with other memoirs I have read of the time). And while she paints herself as a victim, I think again, she is describing her teenage feelings - so it never felt as though she is begging for our sympathy for her experience, more so she can show others that she was just a normal teenage girl going through a horrendous experience that could've happened to anybody.

As Ting-Xing survives ordeal after ordeal in the prison camp, she slowly comes into her own and finds, somehow, a seed of hope that her life won't have to end in the rice patties. Her perseverance and strength are evident and a great example for teens and adults alike.


bethany said...

oh, I think this book looks incredible! I like it even more after your review. I am not ready for another memoir quite yet though, as I am in the middle of The Glass Castle. But, I will put it on my TBR for sure.

Hope your summer continues to be amazing!!

Trish said...

I agree with Bethany--this looks great! I'm definitely going to have to put it on the list. I'm finding that with the Olympics being on I'm slowly realizing that I really don't know much about China.

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