Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Hundred Flowers

by Gail Tsukiyama

"Let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend."
   - Mao Zedong, 1956.

In 1949, Mao Dezong changed the course of history for China creating a socialist republic under the rule of the Communist Party of China. His dictatorship was responsible for human rights abuses and forced labor camps leading to starvation and death for millions of Chinese citizens.

Midway through his control, it seemed Mao had an enlightenment and began the Hundred Flowers campaign, in which he encouraged people to express their opinions on the regime "to promote the flourishing of arts and the progress of science." In reality, the campaign was a ruse to entrap enemies of the state.  A Hundred Flowers tells the story of how one family was impacted by this campaign when the father submits his opinion of Mao's rule. After his arrest, the story unfolds from the perspectives of several characters, but mainly the grandfather Wei and the daughter-in-law Kai Ying. Kai Ying is trying to keep her family afloat through her herbal medicine business and Wei is struggling with a terrible secret. I'm not sure the author did a very good job of getting across the human struggle throughout this period in China, but she did tell an engaging little story.  

(yes, I did notice some historical inconsistencies, but I liked it any way).

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