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Falling Leaves: The True Story of an Unwanted Chinese Daughterby Adeline Yen Mah
Synopses & Reviews
"This is a true story. Much of it was painful and difficult to write, but I felt compelled to do so. In order to understand I have to go back to the very beginning. A Chinese proverb says, ‘Failing leaves return to their roots.’" So begins this extraordinary memoir of a courageous woman’s triumph over despair in a lifelong search for acceptance, love, and understanding. Unfolding against a turbulent backdrop of social, political, and cultural upheaval, Falling Leaves is at once a work of heartfelt intimacy and a rare portrait of twentieth-century China. Adeline Yen Mah was born in 1937 in Tianjin, a port city one thousand miles north of Shanghai. She was the fifth and youngest child of an affluent family. Her grand aunt—in an unprecedented achievement—had founded the Shanghai Women’s Bank in 1924, and her father was a revered businessman whose reputation for turning iron into gold began when he started his own firm at the age of nineteen. Yet wealth and position could not shield young Adeline from a childhood of appalling emotional abuse at the hands of her own family. Adeline’s mother died giving birth to her. As a result she was deemed bad luck, and considered inferior and insignificant by her older siblings, who bullied her relentlessly. When her father took a beautiful Eurasian as his new wife—at a time when everything Western was coveted as superior to Chinese—Adeline found herself at the mercy of a cold and cruelly manipulative stepmother. While Niang treated all of her stepchildren as secondclass citizens, the full power of her wrath was unleashed on Adeline. Her only refuge was in the arms of a beloved aunt who lavished affection and encouragement on the child. Despite her unhappiness, Adeline excelled at school and became a top student. As the Red Army approached in 1949, the family moved to Hong Kong. Adeline was shuttled off to boarding school in virtual isolation, forbidden visitors, mail, and all contact with her family. Burying herself in books, she dreamed of freedom and a new life. Told in her own words, the story of Adeline’s valiant, painful, and ultimately triumphant struggle toward adulthood and independence unfolds with stunning emotional power. Falling Leaves is a haunting and unforgettable tale of people caught in the swirl of events beyond their control, buoyed by the indomitability of the human spirit.
This enthralling, emotionally wrenching saga of a prosperous Chinese family, living during a time of political upheaval in China, reveals the effects of communism and capitalism on a family caught in the collision of East and West. Photos. 304 pp. 12,500 print.
Riveting. A marvel of memory. Poignant proof of the human will to endure. —Amy Tan.
Brilliant, compelling, and unforgettable. A heart-rending modern day Cinderella story set against the turbulence of 20th century China. Autobiography at its best. —Nien Chang, author of Life and Death in Shanghai.
Charged with emotion...A vivid portrait of the human capacity for meanness, malice—and love. —Jung Chang, author of Wild Swans.
Fascinating and heart-rending stuff...a harrowing story of emotional cruelty. —The Times of London
The emotionally wrenching yet ultimately uplifting memoir of a Chinese woman struggling to win the love and acceptance of her family.
In this compelling memoir that scaled bestseller lists in England, Australia, and Hong Kong, Adeline Yen Mah chronicles her painful childhood growing up in a wealthy yet abusive Chinese family. The unwanted daughter scorned by her family, young Adeline dreamed of freedom and independence, ultimately escaping to the West to launch a successful career in medicine.
When Adeline's mother died giving birth to her, she was deemed bad luck and ostracized by her family. Then her father took a beautiful Eurasian bride and Adeline soon fell victim to the wrath of her stepmother. Treated as a pariah, she was shuttled off to boarding schools, bullied by her siblings, and deprived of the beautiful clothes and things given to the rest of the family.
Moving from Shanghai and Hong Kong to London and the United States, Falling Leaves is an enthralling saga of a prosperous Chinese family set against a background of changing political times and the collision of East and West. Written in haunting prose, it evokes all the suspense and emotional force of a satisfying novel.
About the Author
ADELINE YEN MAH, a physician, is currently pursuing a career as a writer. She lives in Huntington Beach, California; London; and Hong Kong.
Table of Contents
Men Dang Hu Dui: The Appropriate Door Fits the Frame of the Correct House.
Dian Tie Cheng Jin: Converting Iron into Gold.
Ru Ying Sui Xing: Inseparable as Each Other's Shadows.
Xiu Se Ke Can: Surpassing Loveliness Good Enough to Feast Upon.
Yi Chang Chun Meng: An Episode of a Spring Dream.
Jia Chou Bu Ke Wai Yang: Family Ugliness Should Never be Aired in Public.
Yuan Mu Qiu Yu: Climbing a Tree to Seek for Fish.
Yi Shi Tong Ren: Extend the Same Treatment to All.
Ren Jie Di Ling: Inspired Scholar in an Enchanting Land.
Du Ri Ru Nian: Each Day Passes Like a Year.
Zi Chu Ji Zhu: Original Ideas in Literary Composition.
Tong Chuang Yi Meng: Same Bed, Different Dreams.
?You He Bu Ke?: Is Anything Impossible?
Yi Qin Yi He: One Lute, One Crane.
Fu Zhong You Yu: Fish Swimming in a Cauldron.
Pi Ma Dan Qiang: One Horse, Single Spear.
Jia Ji Shui Ji: Marry a Chicken, Follow a Chicken.
Zhong Gua De Gua: You Plant Melons, You Reap Melons.
Xin Ru Si Hui: Hearts Reduced to Ashes.
Fu Zhong Lin Jia: Scales and Shells in the Belly.
Tian Zuo Zhi He: Heaven-Made Union.
Si Mian Chu Ge: Besieged by Hostile Forces on All Sides.
Cu Cha Dan Fan: Coarse Tea and Plain Rice.
Yin Shui Si Yuan: While Drinking Water, Remember the Source.
Yi Dao Liang Duan: Sever This Kinship with One Whack of the Knife.
Wu Feng Qi Lang: Creating Waves Without Wind.
Jin Zhu Zhe Chi, Jin Mo Zhe Hei: Near Vermilion, One Gets Stained Red; Near Ink, One Gets Stained Black.
Jiu Rou Peng You: Wine and Meat Friends.
Wu Tou Gong An: Headless and Clueless Case.
Kai Men Yi Dao: Opened the Door to Salute the Thief.
Yan Er Dao Ling: Steal the Bell While Covering Your Ears.
Luo Ye Gui Gen: Falling Leaves Return to Their Roots.
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