Li reconstructs her childhood and girlhood through a series of
fragile and powerful vignettes: Fragile because the pre-revolutionary China that
informs her values and shapes her childhood is obliterated before she is old
enough to take her place within it; powerful because Li's family's suffers
cruelties so arbitrary that they are almost surreal, and are threatened by a
savagery wholly indifferent to the familial or the personal.
The brutal ironies commence with the Great Leap Forward: Li's family and neighbors eagerly relinquish pots, pans and metal objects to Li's father's homemade brick furnace until they realize that they don't know how to make iron or steel. Then in 1959 comes the government-ordered eradication of sparrows: Li's family and neighbors enthusiastically shoot the birds or drive them off by banging pots and pans. Li's family is happy and ...
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