Wednesday, July 19, 2017
There is so much to love about this book! It's appealing to young and old alike. It was lent to me by sisters, ages 14 and 12. They were effusive in their praise. As a work of historical fiction, it gave them context for our class reading of Red Scarf Girl, which is memoir, China's own version of Diary of Anne Frank. Letters in the Jade Dragon Box is how I washed down Red Scarf Girl, which has an overall oppressive feeling because of the weight of oppression Jiang Ji-li truly felt. Reading this one next helped me to feel more hope for China. It is an LDS author who weaves a story of conversion and re-conversion throughout, using actual missionary history in Hong Kong to give it life. At first, the historical footnotes caught me off guard, but I came to appreciate the depth these post-chapter explanations provided. They make this book an excellent study tool for those interested in China's past and present, particularly from a religious freedom perspective. I feel this book gave me more of a connection to China, celebrating its beauty, art, and culture, while telling the very sad story of the 1960's Cultural Revolution which tore so many families apart. I highly recommend this to both adults and young people. Reading it in the same semester with Red Scarf Girl is even better.
I was moved to tears by Ji-li Jiang's story many times. I came away from this book feeling strongly that if everyone read it, the world would be a less oppressive, less ignorant, more sympathetic place. This book is a plea for compassion and law. In her epilogue Jiang says, "This is the most frightening lesson of the Cultural Revolution: Without a sound legal system, a small group or even a single person can take control of an entire country. This is as true now as it was then."
I now have a deeper respect for the United States Constitution and the rule of law, as well as the importance of kindness and generosity in building and maintaining community life. Good books entertain you. Great books make you ask yourself questions about things that matter. The best books change you in the reading. You come out a better person. Red Scarf Girl is one of these.