Cover image for Red scarf girl : a memoir of the Cultural Revolution
Red scarf girl : a memoir of the Cultural Revolution
Jiang, Ji-li.
Personal Author:
First Harper Trophy edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : HarperTrophy, 1998.

Physical Description:
xvii, 285 pages ; 20 cm
Reading Level:
780 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.0 8.0 17835.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 6.1 14 Quiz: 09638 Guided reading level: Z.
Personal Subject:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS778.7 .J53 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

On Order

Lancaster Library1Received on 9/25/08



Publishers Weekly Best Book * ALA Best Book for Young Adults * ALA Notable Children's Book * ALA Booklist Editors' Choice

In the tradition of The Diary of Anne Frank and I Am Malala, this is the incredible true story of one girl's courage and determination during one of the most terrifying eras of the twentieth century. This edition includes a detailed glossary, pronunciation guide, discussion questions, and a Q&A with the author.

It's 1966, and twelve-year-old Ji-li Jiang has everything a girl could want: brains, popularity, and a bright future in Communist China. But it's also the year that China's leader, Mao Ze-dong, launches the Cultural Revolution--and Ji-li's world begins to fall apart.

Over the next few years, people who were once her friends and neighbors turn on her and her family, forcing them to live in constant terror of arrest. And when Ji-li's father is finally imprisoned, she faces the most difficult dilemma of her life.

Written in an accessible and engaging style, this page-turning, honest, and deeply personal autobiography will appeal to readers of all ages.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Gr. 6^-10. Ji-li Jiang was a model little Communist. Devoted to Chairman Mao, firm in her desire to be the best possible student so that she could further the aims of China, Ji-li was secure in her place as one of the foremost students in a Shanghai school, and just as happy as the eldest daughter of a theatrical family. Then in 1966, when Ji-li was 12, her world turned upside down. Chairman Mao launched the Cultural Revolution and suddenly everything formerly good was bad--including excellent students, such as Ji-li. To make matters worse, Ji-li's grandfather was a landowner, another black mark against her family. Jiang's simple narrative voice is always true to the girl she was as events in China swirled into chaos. She captures both the confusion she felt as the ground under her feet constantly shifted and her sincerity in trying to do the right thing for her ostracized family and her country. The book's climax, in which Ji-li is forced to choose between her future and her father, whom the government wanted her to denounce, will affect readers, who have been carefully led to this point by Ji-li's chronicle of humiliations, beatings, and relocations. Young people who have little knowledge of Chinese history may have trouble at first understanding a society so different from ours, but Jiang's engrossing memoir transcends politics and becomes the story of one little girl trying to survive the madness. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

The passionate tone of this memoir, Jiang's first book for children, does not obstruct the author's clarity as she recounts the turmoil during China's Cultural Revolution. It is 1966, and Ji-li, a highly ranked student, exceptional athlete and avid follower of Mao zealously joins her classmates in denouncing the Four Olds: "old ideas, old culture, old customs and old habits." Tables are turned, however, when her own family's bourgeois heritage is put under attack. Even when the 12-year-old's dreams of a successful career are dashed (as quickly as her opportunities to attend a prestigious high school and to join youth organizations), and she must watch in horror as relatives, teachers, neighbors and friends are publicly humiliated and tortured, her devotion to ingrained Communist principals remains steadfast ("It was only after Mao's death that I knew I was deceived," she says in the epilogue). Jiang paints a detailed picture of everyday life in Shanghai ("Almost every Sunday afternoon Dad wanted to take a long nap in peace, and so he gave us thirty fen to rent picture books") while slowly adding the dark strokes of political poison that begin to invade it. Her undidactic approach invites a thoughtful analysis of Ji-li's situation and beliefs. She astutely leaves morals and warnings about corruption and political control to be read between the lines. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Gr 4-9-Red Scarf Girl (HarperCollins, 1997) is the memoir of Ji-Li Jiang, who grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution. Ji-Li Jiang was only 12 when Mao Zedong instituted the Cultural Revolution, and her life was greatly affected. An intelligent child, she quickly learned that her "bad" class status meant more in this new China than her scholastic successes. Her grandfather was a landlord, which caused the Jiang family many hardships. Throughout it all, Ji-Li struggled to remain loyal to both her family and Chairman Mao. She witnessed many of the humiliations experienced by people who had bad class status. Through an epilogue, listeners discover the final outcome for Ji-Li Jiang, her family, and some of the others highlighted in this memoir. Listeners are drawn into this emotional story immediately. Christina Moore's narration carries the story, conveying the emotional tensions that existed in Ji-Li's life. Moore does an excellent job of varying her tone and allowing each character to find his/her own voice, making it easy for listeners to follow the plot and distinguish the characters. This audiobook should fly off the shelf through word of mouth.-Kathryn King, Walnut Hill Branch, Dallas Public Library, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-9‘This autobiography details the author's experiences as a teenager during the Cultural Revolution. Though wanting to be devoted followers of Chairman Mao, Jiang and her family are subjected to many indignities because her grandfather was once a landlord. Memoirs of the period are usually larded with murders, suicides, mass brainwashing, cruel and unusual bullying, and injustices. Red Scarf Girl is no exception. Where Jiang scores over her comrades is in her lack of self-pity, her naive candor, and the vividness of her writing. The usual catalogue of atrocities is filtered through the sensibility of a young woman trying to comprehend the events going on around her. Readers watch her grow from a follower into a thoughtful person who privately questions the dictates of the powers that be. She witnesses neighbors being beaten to death, her best friend's grandmother's suicide, the systematic degradation of her father, and endless public humiliations. At one point, Jiang even enters a police station to change her name in a confused attempt to dissociate herself from her branded and maligned family. She makes it very clear that the atrocities were the inevitable result of the confusion and fanaticism manipulated by unscrupulous leaders for their own petty ends. Ultimately, her resigned philosophy attaches no blame: this is what happens when power is grossly abused. The writing style is lively and the events often have a heart-pounding quality about them. Red Scarf Girl will be appreciated as a page-turner and as excellent discussion material for social studies curricula.‘John Philbrook, formerly at San Francisco Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Red Scarf Girl A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution Chapter One I was born on Chinese New Year. Carefully, my parents chose my name: Ji-li, meaning lucky and beautiful. They hoped that I would be the happiest girl in the world. And I was. I was happy because I was always loved and respected. I was proud because I was able to excel and always expected to succeed. I was trusting, too. I never doubted what I was told: "Heaven and earth are great, but greater still is the kindness of the Communist Party; father and mother are dear, but dearer still is Chairman Mao." With my red scarf, the emblem of the Young Pioneers, tied around my neck, and my heart bursting with joy, I achieved and grew every day until that fateful year, 1966. That year I was twelve years old, in sixth grade. That year the Cultural Revolution started. The Liberation Army Dancer Chairman Mao, our beloved leader, smiled down at us from his place above the blackboard. The sounds and smells of the tantalising May afternoon drifted in through the window. The sweet breeze carried the scent of new leaves and tender young grass and rippled the paper slogan below Chairman Mao′s picture: study hard and advance every day. In the corner behind me the breeze also rustled the papers hanging from the Students′ Garden, a beautifully decorated piece of cardboard that displayed exemplary work. One of them was my latest perfect math test. We were having music class, but we couldn′t keep our minds on the teacher′s directions. We were all confused by the two-part harmony of the Young Pioneers′ Anthem. "We are Young Pioneers, successors to Communism. Our red scarves flutter on our chests," we sang over and over, trying to get the timing right. The old black pump organ wheezed and squeaked as impatiently as we did. We made another start, but Wang Da-yong burst out a beat early, and the whole class broke into laughter. Just then Principal Long appeared at the door. She walked in, looking less serious than usual, and behind her was a stranger, a beautiful young woman dressed in the People′s Liberation Army uniform. A Liberation Army soldier! She was slim and stood straight as a reed. Her eyes sparkled, and her long braids, tied with red ribbons, swung at her waist. There was not a sound in the classroom as all forty of us stared at her in awe. Principal Long told us to stand up. The woman soldier smiled but did not speak. She walked up and down the aisles, looking at us one by one. When she finished, she spoke quietly with Principal Long. "Tong Chao and Jiang Ji-li," Principal Long announced. "Come with us to the gym." A murmur rose behind us as we left the room. Tong Chao looked at me and I looked at him in wonder as we followed the swinging braids. The gym was empty. "I want to see how flexible you are. Let me lift your leg," the Liberation Army woman said in her gentle voice. She raised my right leg over my head in front of me. "Very good! Now I′ll support you. Lean over backward as far as you can." That was easy. I bent backward until I could grab my ankles like an acrobat. "That′s great!" she said, and her braids swung with excitement. "This is Jiang Ji-li." Principal Long leaned forward proudly. "She′s been studying martial arts since the second grade. She was on the Municipal Children′s Martial Arts Team. Their demonstration was even filmed." The Liberation Army woman smiled sweetly. "That was very good. Now you may go back to your classroom." She patted me on my head before she turned back to test Tong Chao. I went back to class, but I could not remember the song we were singing. What did the Liberation Army woman want? Could she want to choose me for something? It was too much to contemplate. I hardly moved when the bell rang to end school. Someone told me that the principal wanted to see me. I walked slowly down the hall, surrounded by my shouting and jostling classmates, seeing only the beautiful soldier, feeling only the electric tingle of her soft touch on my head. The office door was heavy. I pushed it open cautiously. Some students from the other sixth-grade classes were there already. I recognised Wang Qi, a girl in class two, and one of the boys, You Xiao-fan of class four. I didn′t know the other boy. The three of them sat nervously and respectfully opposite Principal Long. I slipped into a chair next to them. Principal Long leaned forward from her big desk. "I know you must be wondering about the Liberation Army soldier," she said. She sounded cheerful and excited. "Why did she come? Why did she want you to do back bends?" She looked at us one by one and then took a long sip from her tea mug as if she wanted to keep us guessing. "She was Comrade Li from the Central Liberation Army Arts Academy." I slowly took a deep breath. "She is recruiting students for the dance training class. She selected you four to audition. It′s a great honour for Xin Er Primary School. I′m very proud of all of you, and I know you′ll do your best." I did not hear the rest of her words. I saw myself in a new Liberation Army uniform, slim and standing straight as a reed, long braids swinging at my waist. A Liberation Army soldier! One of the heroes admired by all, who helped Chairman Mao liberate China from oppression and defeated the Americans in Korea. And a performer, just like my mother used to be, touring the country, the world, to tell everyone about the New China that Chairman Mao had built and how it was becoming stronger and stronger. I couldn′t help giving Wang Qi a silly smile. Red Scarf Girl A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution . Copyright © by Ji-li Jiang . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution by Ji-Li Jiang All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.