History, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Yu-Chun

#511 Little Green by Chun Yu

Little Green by Chun YuLittle Green by Chun Yu

The Cultural Revolution was a strange time in China’s history. People put on the act of patriotic citizens while their world seemed to fall apart. The way of life as they knew it changed. Things they once admired were now things they weren’t supposed to admire. Traditions they once held dear were now outlawed and considered to be Four Olds.

Little Green grew up during this time. She was very young when it all started and can’t really remember the how or why of things changing. When she was quite young her father was sent away to be re-educated. He was kept away from the family a large portion of the time. Out of all the people considered to be bad people during the cultural revolution intellectuals were considered among the worst. Little Green’s parents are both teachers and that means they’re bad.

For a while Little Green lives out in the country close to her grandparents and relatives. She enjoys the way of country life, but looks on confused as people are ordered to pull up their gardens all for the sake of communism. Little Green is never too busy to observe the little things of life; even though communism has changed everything, Little Green takes the time to look at the nature around her.

Eventually, Little Green grows up and has to go to school where she wears the red scarf. She is asked to make a speech in front of ten thousand people. She remembers that people are executed at these meetings. Their bodies are carried away in front of a crowd.

Mao does die; he is not given the ten thousand years everyone says he will have. After Mao is gone the world changes some.

What I liked

This was just another view into the world of China under the Cultural Revolution. In each view I see it’s obvious this was a very tough time for everyone, but it’s a piece of the world’s history and it’s something we should know about. It was a movement that set out to do good, but it ended up doing the opposite. You have to remember that in theory communism is a great idea, but it all goes to crap when people try to put it in practice. None of us are in a high enough plane that we could live communism or anything like it in a manner that would benefit everybody. In the end a few of us screw it up for all. If this idea had actually worked out for China, we would probably all want to follow in their footsteps, but it didn’t work out and it never will.

What I didn’t like

In and of itself the phrase “cultural revolution” doesn’t sound like a bad thing? Who doesn’t want their culture to be revolutionized a bit? Maybe we could have one ourselves and stop Photoshopping people and then try to ignore these celebrities that aren’t really celebrities at all. Cultural revolution turned out to be a very bad thing for the people of China. It was extreme. People were told to forego tradition and worship the worker.

As a tangent not speaking of the book, let’s look at this idea shall we? Not that the working people of the world are bad or anything, but they’re not really the people you model society after. Workers are great for getting the things of our world done. Without them we wouldn’t have houses and garbage would be piled a mile high in the streets, but it’s generally not the workers who revolutionize the way things are done and create new businesses. The people who do those things are generally college-educated people, the intellectuals. There have been people in worker type positions that have gone on to create amazing businesses, ideas, and inventions, but that’s an exception, not the rule.

These days people tend to mix more. We have more available to us. Your garbage man could be listening to Shakespeare audio books while he picks up your garbage. Anybody can educate themselves these days, but this wasn’t the case in China during the time of the Cultural Revolution. China’s idea was flawed because it worshiped the farmer. Farmers are great, but the farmers of China at the time didn’t know anything about keeping society afloat. Mao modeled the ideal person after the farmer only for the farmers not to know anything that wasn’t about farming. They had no education. They knew about vegetables, but vegetables won’t teach children in school or develop relations with foreign nations.

Something about this book and not about the Cultural Revolution I didn’t like was the fact that the entire book was pretty much in prose. Instead of the book saying, “I went to school when I was five,” it’s a poem, not a rhyming poem, but it’s a poem.

Here’s my deal, I like poetry, but I don’t love poetry. I’ve read poetry before. I even used to write some poetry back in the day. I can be quite poetic when I want to be. With all of that said, I don’t generally enjoy reading poetry. Poetry to me, often seems like a way to avoid what you’re really trying to say. If you want to say it’s morning, say, “It’s the morning,” not, “the orange sun crests over the hills, light penetrates the dark crevices of night.” Although the second option does sound quite nice, it’s not a direct route. Maybe I’m just too impatient for poetry, and of course this is coming from a person who wrote 3000+ words about Rapunzel and why the story was about abstinence and teen pregnancy. So, go figure.


I’m glad Little Green was able to survive the Cultural Revolution of China and she ended up with her immediate family intact.

Weigh in

Comparing Little Green to Ji-Li Jiang, who do you think had the harder life during the Cultural Revolution?

Are you for books entirely written in poetry or not? Why?


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