This book grabbed my attention at my local public library because of the photo of the sad little girl on the front. And what a truly sad story this book presents. Yen Jung-ling's (Adeline Yen Mah) mother died shortly after her birth. Because of this, her family considered her bad luck and emotionally and physically abused her throughout her life. Adeline's father remarries and soon two new children are born into the family. However, things do not go well for little Adeline. Her stepmother, Niang, favours her own children and the family becomes increasingly disfuntional as the years pass. Adeline, her Aunt Baba, and her grandparents Ye Ye and Nai Nai struggle to hold on to some semblance of dignity and to help one another cope. Despite her terrible home life, Adeline remains a top student, even becoming class president and winning the International Play-writing Competition in 1951-52. With the wonderful encouragement from her Aunt and grandfather, she struggles to believe in her own selfworth.
This book is fascinating but ends rather abruptly with Adeline being sent off to England to study medicine, thus leaving readers to wonder how the rest of her life turned out. For that, readers are directed to read her book, Falling Leaves.
Chinese Cinderella provides many insights into Chinese life during the early part of the last century, prior to the fall of China into Communism. There is an interesting recounting of the discussion by Adeline's grandfather on the subtlety of the Chinese language and of her grandmother telling Adeline about having her feet bound at the age of three. Included are black and white photos of Adeline's family, but none of her birth-mother because her father ordered all the photos of his first wife destroyed.
Recommended for teens and older.
The true story of an unwanted daughter.
by Adeline Yen Mah
1999 Dell Laurel-Leaf