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Mao's Last Dancer

by

Mao's Last Dancer Cover

ISBN13: 9780425201336
ISBN10: 0425201333
Condition: Standard
All Product Details

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

From a desperately poor village in northeast China, at age eleven, Li Cunxin was chosen by Madame Mao's cultural delegates to be taken from his rural home and brought to Beijing, where he would study ballet. In 1979, the young dancer arrived in Texas as part of a cultural exchange, only to fall in love with America — and with an American woman. Two years later, through a series of events worthy of the most exciting cloak-and-dagger fiction, he defected to the United States, where he quickly became known as one of the greatest ballet dancers in the world. This is his story, told in his own inimitable voice.

Review:

"[F]ull of rich details that give it emotional immediacy and power." San Diego Union-Tribune

Review:

"[A] fascinating glimpse of the history of Chinese-U.S. relations and the dissolution of the Communist ideal in the life of one fortunate individual." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"[C]oncerns not only a dancer's coming of age in a turbulent time but also individual strength, self-discovery, and the triumph of the human spirit." Library Journal

Review:

"Nicely written and humane: for anyone interested in modern Chinese history or for fans of dance." Kirkus Reviews

Synopsis:

The international bestselling memoir of a world-renowned artist's defection from China to America.

About the Author

Li Cunxin has displayed the ultimate in perseverance and determination throughout his life — from excelling in the grueling ballet training demanded by the Beijing Dance Academy to his 16 years as one of the premier dancers from the Houston Ballet to his latest career as a stockbroker and motivational speaker. He now lives in Australia and travels extensively around the world giving presentations. Visit his Web site at www.licunxin.com.

Table of Contents

Mao's Last Dancer A Wedding: Qingdao, 1946

Part One: My Childhood

1. Home

2. My Niang and Dia

3. A Commune Childhood

4. The Seven of Us

5. Na-na

6. Chairman Mao's Classroom

7. Leaving Home

Part Two: Beijing

8. Feather in a Whirlwind

9. The Caged Bird

10. That First Lonely Year

11. The Pen

12. My Own Voice

13. Teacher Xiao's Words

14. Turning Points

15. The Mango

16. Change

17. On the Way to the West

18. The Filthy Capitalist America

19. Good-bye, China

Part Three: The West

20. Return to the Land of Freedom

21. Elizabeth

22. Defection

23. My New Life

24. A Millet Dream Come True

25. No More Nightmares

26. Russia

27. Mary

28. Going Home

29. Back in My Village

30. Another Wedding: Qingdao, 1988

Postscript

The Li Family Tree

Acknowledgments

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Eric Langager, November 11, 2006 (view all comments by Eric Langager)
There seems to be no end of stories by and about people who came of age during the darkest days of the Cultural Revolution. This book is different from most of them in a couple important respects. First of all, Li Cuxin's family were peasants. Perhaps it would be a bit strong to say that they "missed" the revolution, because Li Cuxin does describe one particularly graphic scene where he witnessed an execution. But they were not personally struggled against. The peasants were the idealized heroes of the Cultural Revolution. Li Cuxin's suffering was poverty, pure and simple. But there are lots of poor people in the world. Secondly, the benefits Li Cuxin was given were unique in that they were not given him by the country he went to (America). They were given to him by the People's Republic of China. And the life he went to was really unreal. Most Americans do not live like the people Li met when he came to America. So this book is not a classic story about a persecuted person who somehow managed to find freedom in the West. As such, I must admit that I often had mixed feelings while reading this book. I don't want to spend too much time on that, but I want to address it, because it is central both to what is right and what is wrong in this book.

For me, the center point of this book is Li Cunxin's decision to defect to the West. He married one of his fellow dancers secretly, and told his benefactor from the Huston Ballet that he was not going to return to China. It is this decision that really defines this story, and it is this decision that causes me to have so many mixed feelings about this book, because I believe the decision was a mistake. It was a mistake, but I have mixed feelings, because while part of me is disgusted with him for doing something so stupid and self serving, it is hard to be too angry with him, given the way he was treated by the Ministry of Culture.

This was my problem reading this book. In one sense, one is inclined to feel sorry for a kid whose dreams could be so casually dashed to pieces by one bureaucrat who just happened to be a jerk. Yet, as I said, this book is not a classic story of a persecuted dissident who escaped to the West to find freedom. Li Cunxin was privileged. Very few young people in America or Australia have the privileges he was given by his government to go to Beijing and study in the top dance academy in the nation. And Li's decision to skip the program and defect was not an act of heroism. It would have been more heroic in this case, for him to go back to China. He says his country lied to him. True, but he lied to them, too. The report he wrote for his superiors after he returned from his first trip was full of exaggerated condemnations of the West that were written to impress, not to give a true account of his experience. I think there is a very good possibility that the blatant insincerity of this report played a big part in the Culture Minister's decision not to let him return to the States. And there is certainly nothing of religious persecution in this book. Li doesn't seem to have had much interest in the things of God, although he did become a nominal Catholic to please his future in-laws. Bottom line: When the chips were down, Li Cunxin did what was good for Li Cunxin.

OK, perhaps I am a little hard on him. An emotionally vulnerable young man, drawn in by a needy young woman. Would I have done differently if I had been in his shoes? I really do try to understand, but my ability to understand is limited, because my experience was not like his, and because there is so much difference between the China I live in and the China he grew up in that they cannot really be called the same country. There are times, in today's China, when I sit at a banquet, or something, and just shake my head at the bounty. It's hard to believe that anyone ever starved in this country. And it is only fair to point out that, while I may disagree with his decision to defect when he did, there is a lot that Li Cunxin did right. His success was not just luck or good fortune. He worked very hard. He took nothing for granted. This, really was his strong point.

Recommendation: Five stars. This is without exception the best account I have read about growing up peasant in the countryside of China. And the story is told with integrity. Mind you, I am not backing down from my original statement. I think he screwed up. But he is honest about his failure--you have to give him that. And while I do not believe his defection was an act of heroism, there is plenty of heroism in this book. He tells us of his brother, who is forced to stay in that community and forbidden to marry the woman he loves. One cannot help but be moved by the strength of character that overcomes bitter fate by enduring it bravely. Or his other brother, who is given away at birth, and destined to grow up as an "outsider" even though he lives right next door. He, too, decides to accept his fate, and do the honorable thing. I stand in awe of such men. Li Cunxin also speaks honestly about his feelings of guilt at his phenomenal success. This guilt, of course, is misplaced. He did nothing wrong. No one can fault him for wanting to succeed. And his success was a blessing to his family. And a blessing to us; we would not have this story otherwise. This book is well worth reading.




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Product Details

ISBN:
9780425201336
Author:
Cunxin, Li
Publisher:
Berkley Publishing Group
Author:
Li, Cunxin
Subject:
General
Subject:
Entertainment & Performing Arts - Dancers
Subject:
Ballet dancers
Subject:
Defectors.
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Li, Cunxin
Subject:
Ballet dancers - China
Subject:
Biography-Entertainment and Performing Arts
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
20050331
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
480
Dimensions:
9.05x6.08x.99 in. 1.10 lbs.
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Dance » Biographies
Arts and Entertainment » Dance » General
Arts and Entertainment » Sale Books
Biography » Entertainment and Performing Arts
Biography » General
History and Social Science » World History » China

Mao's Last Dancer Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.50 In Stock
Product details 480 pages Berkley Publishing Group - English 9780425201336 Reviews:
"Review" by , "[F]ull of rich details that give it emotional immediacy and power."
"Review" by , "[A] fascinating glimpse of the history of Chinese-U.S. relations and the dissolution of the Communist ideal in the life of one fortunate individual."
"Review" by , "[C]oncerns not only a dancer's coming of age in a turbulent time but also individual strength, self-discovery, and the triumph of the human spirit."
"Review" by , "Nicely written and humane: for anyone interested in modern Chinese history or for fans of dance."
"Synopsis" by , The international bestselling memoir of a world-renowned artist's defection from China to America.
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