Wednesday, August 26, 2015

From Fiction to History: Book Recommendations ('Revolution is Not a Dinner Party')

I love historical fiction. Historical fiction I read in elementary school (willingly or not!) played a large part in encouraging me to become interested in actual history, and even today I find myself picking up non-fiction books to find out more about the real events and history behind some of my favorite fiction novels! In the same vein, I've decided to start a series of posts recommending some non-fiction reads based on historical fiction favorites. I was checking over my Goodreads 2015 Challenge earlier today and thought that the historical fiction I've read this year would be an excellent place to start.

Fiction: Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine

Ling, the central character of Revolution is Not a Dinner Party, is only 9 years old when the world around her begins to crumble due to the increasingly heightened policies under the Chinese Cultural Revolution; her parents, two wealthy surgeons who have provided their daughter with a comfortable life and education, find themselves under increasing suspicion and ultimately punishment for their perceived anti-revolutionary lifestyle and beliefs. Ling, too, is increasingly ostracized for being "bourgeois"--for having long hair, new clothes, and a comfortable life. The events in Revolution is Not a Dinner Party were drawn from Compestine's own experiences as a young girl in Wuhan.

History:  Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng

Life and Death in Shanghai
is a deeply personal and detailed account of one woman's long, terrible imprisonment during the Cultural Revolution. Cheng's life made her the perfect target: she was the widow of an official of the last regime, formally educated in London, employed at Shell Oil, and enjoyed a comfortable, wealthy lifestyle. Cheng's imprisonment began after she refused to admit that any of this made her an enemy of China, and what followed were 6 years of horror--and many more years of seeking justice.

History: Blood Red Sunset: A Memoir of the Chinese Cultural Revolution by Ma Bo 

As a Red Guard, Ma Bo did not hesitate to do the work that Mao's government demanded of its soldiers: ransacking homes for anything that went against the party's guidelines, beating suspected anti-communists in order to make them confess, and even participating in . But when Ma Bo made a careless comment about a party leader, he found himself on the other side--imprisoned for eight years while enduring severe beatings, physical torture and psychological abuse. Blood Red Sunset is Ma Bo's memoir of those terrible years.

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