The Little Red Guard: A Family Memoir

When Wenguang Huang was nine years old, his grandmother became obsessed with her own death. Fearing cremation, she extracted from her family the promise to bury her after she died. This was in Xian, a city in central China, in the 1970s, when a national ban on all traditional Chinese practices, including burials, was strictly enforced. But Huang’s grandmother was persistent, and two years later, his father built her a coffin. Over the next fifteen years, the whole family was consumed with planning Grandma’s burial, a regular source of friction and contention, with the constant risk of being caught by the authorities. Many years after her death, the family’s memories of her coffin still loom large. Huang, now living and working in America, has come to realize how much the concern over the coffin has affected his upbringing and shaped the lives of everyone in the family. -
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Riverhead Books
New York, NY
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Average: 4.5 (2 votes)


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A compelling memoir

Field of Interest/Specialty: history, Chinese government and politics
Posted On: 10/20/2015

This memoir offers insight into life before, during (mostly during), and after the Cultural Revolution. Overall, it is a story of the conflict between generations, between tradition and "progress," and between the authoritarian government and individuals. The details of the family's life present a compelling picture of life during these years and the narrative moves just briskly enough to keep the reader turning the pages. I enjoyed this book and recommend it to others.

The Little Red Guard: A Portal into the Complexities of Modern China

Field of Interest/Specialty: Visual Art
Posted On: 07/06/2015

The Little Red Guard, is a memoir of the writer growing up during the Cultural Revolution in Xian, China. The story centers around his father's desire to meet his filial responsibility to his own mother by satisfying her wishes to be buried with her deceased husband. The task is nothing short of daunting. The greater story told here is one of conflicting ideologies held in precarious balance by those who lived before, during and after the Cultural Revolution. I enjoyed the book from beginning to end. I found myself living with Huang's family, sharing their inner psychological dramas as they were shaped and morphed by political realities, traditional belief systems, intergenerational trauma, and differentiated experience. What I liked best is that the author's story allows the reader a humanistic portal into the complexities of modern China. This read captured my intellect as the story itself captured my heart.