Growing Up in The People’s Republic by Ye Weili with Xiaodong Ma

Nonfiction — print. Palgrave, 2005. 177 pgs. Purchased.

Subtitled “Conversations Between Two Daughters of China’s Revolution”, this oral history is a translation of a conversation between Ye and Ma as they recount their lives in China from the 1950s to the 1980s, which includes the volatile Cultural Revolution. Fashioning themselves as a misunderstood generation, the authors explain the impact the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and the march towards the countryside had on their lives.

An absolutely fascinating read. Raised to shed gender distinctions, Ye and Ma now reexamine their lives during this time period through the lens of gender and see how they were raised differently from their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers. These women not only attempted to adopt less feminine dressing but also attempted to fashion themselves as men.

“Eliminating gender distinctions was never articulated as a goal of the movement, but to be a revolutionary implicitly meant to look like a man.” (pg. 4)

I also greatly appreciated their honesty as to their actions during this time. Instead of trying to present themselves as counterrevolutionary and against Mao’s campaigns, the two women admit the roles they played. One even goes so far as to admit that she had physical abused a woman with a belt. I highly recommend this book.

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