Rating: 5 out of 5
I seldom read anything that is not made up. A choice that excludes news, and other great pieces of writing simply because these things actually happened. However, occasionally I find myself straying from my comfort zone to stare change in the face and to embrace something different. This time around it would be a memoir with a catchy title.
Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter
Based on the life and upbringing of NY Times bestselling author Adeline Yen Mah, Chinese Cinderella, shares her life and experiences from early childhood until around age fourteen when thanks to good fortune she is able to escape her family.
My initial thoughts were focused around how beautifully written yet highly infuriating the story was. I was drawn in by the title, Cinderella, being one of my favorite fairy tales and often used to describe a young woman forced into servitude of her family. I was half expecting a prince to be included and a royal ball to be her saving grace.
This tale was slightly different, still very much a heart-wrenching story of injustice. Reading this story I felt a great deal of sadness and anger on her behalf. I found myself wishing I had a time machine, so I could go back and rescue the poor child myself.
This story reminds me of “A Child Called It”, by Dave Pelzer. Though Yen Jun-Ling isn’t left in a shed or fed dog food, her banishment to a war torn boarding school feels comparable. She isn’t physically abused though the psychological and verbal abuse she experiences shapes her just as strongly in the end. Her familial isolation leads her towards the path of scholarship and literature and she excels despite having few people in her corner.
Her only refuge are her grandfather and aunt whom try to aide her as best they can but also become victims to Niang’s cruelty. I honestly felt both anger and sympathy for them. The once proud head of the family withered by age and illness forced to rely on his vapid son and his wicked younger second wife. I understood the hierarchy of things but still wished Aunt Baba could’ve popped Niang just once.
The book was a quick read, ending when Yen Mah was 14 and on her way to Oxford, to think that she came very close to being forced out of school and into the workforce by her father and stepmother is appalling. That she was only sent to Oxford after winning a literary competition and that even then her father decided she would go for medicine is equally disgusting.
Even though Niang was the primary villain of the book I think the true bad guy was her father. He was her FATHER for crying out loud, she was literally the fruit of his loins, yet he allowed this woman to divide his children, mistreat the originals and literally scar his last child by his first wife. Instead of holding onto her as the final memory of his late wife he treated her worse than the German Shepherd he’d purchased.
Best Part of The Book —> Her finally being free of the terrible family she had. Her second oldest brother was also a jerk. I don’t have fond thoughts of her family but luckily they believe in Karma so they’ll all be reincarnated as dung beetles.
It was a pretty interesting book, as a quick read I may add more memoirs into my collection of books to read throughout the year. I am hoping to get at least 4 non-fiction books into my completed pile before the year is out.
Name Your Favorite Memoir?
Let Me Know In The Comments Below!