|Get the best of Oprah.com in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletters!|
Book of the Week: The Little Red Guard
Every Monday, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors at O and Oprah.com couldn't stop reading. This week, we've been moved by the Chinese memoir:
The Little Red Guard
By Wenguang Huang
Memoirs are tricky to write, mostly because life just isn't that tidy. Events don't happen in the most compelling order, and people don't realize what they're supposed to in time to save the plot. In The Little Red Guard, however, Wenguang Huang manages to tell such a riveting, well-crafted story that it could be a novel were it not for the subtitle clarifying that erroneous assumption. Huang begins with his grandmother (by family memoir, he really means family; you get to know everyone, not just the narrator). She's afraid of being cremated and insists that her son, Huang's father, bury her the traditional way, complete with plot and coffin. Unfortunately, she lives in 1970s China, and the law dictates that everyone in town must be cremated to save land for the new apartment buildings needed for the new families to work in the new factories. Thus begins a struggle—at times comic and at times heartbreaking—which pits an elderly individual and the people who love her against an entire society. Some of the details of life in China at this period ring familiar (one example: the kids singing catchy tunes like "Down with Confucius, Oppose Old Rituals"), but the book roams backward and forward in time so adroitly that there are plenty of fresh and unforgettable revelations (for example, the description of the 1950s when, lacking a currency, the government paid people in sacks of flour). For anyone who has felt that they've given a bit too much of their comfort to their family, this book presents a new question: Did you spend more than a decade sleeping next to Grandma's coffin? Now that's an act that demonstrates not just respect—or gratitude or the crucial understanding that this will all make a great story much, much later—but also love.
Life rules from our favorite heroines
Please don't say this in your book club...please
Please note that Harpo Productions, Inc., OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications LLC and their affiliated companies and entities have no affiliation with and do not endorse those entities, projects, or websites referenced above, which are provided solely as a courtesy. You should conduct your own independent investigation before using the services of any such entities, projects, or websites. Information is provided for your reference only.