Chinese Cinderella, by Adeline Yen Mah
Themes: family, China, autobiography, childhood, rejection, triumph over adversity.
Adeline Yen Mah writes about her own childhood in this moving and haunting true story. It is the kind of book which will leave images and words in your mind long after you put it down.
Chinese Cinderella follows Adeline’s life between the ages of 4 and 14. Adeline’s mother died when giving birth to her, leaving Adeline in the care of her father and his new wife, Niang.
As in the tale of Cinderella, Adeline’s stepmother, nasty Niang, is heartlessly cruel to Adeline and her siblings. Niang greatly favours her own biological children – Adeline’s step sister and step brother.
Adeline recounts her story from her childhood viewpoint, presenting characters and experiences as she saw them when she was young. Adeline describes memories of such callous, heartless cruelty shown to her by her unfeeling family that I was brought close to tears at times (and I never cry from books!).
However, in the darkness of Adeline’s childhood, there is hope in the form of her grandfather, her aunts and a handful of loyal friends. These few but significant individuals love and cherish Adeline, encouraging her in her talents and achievements.
In Chinese Cinderella, Adeline gives vivid insight to Chinese culture including the beauty and depth of the Chinese language. One scene is particularly memorable in which Adeline’s grandfather teaches Adeline the meaning behind a few Chinese characters. The richness and wisdom contained in these symbols is enough to make me want to learn Mandarin!
I would rate Chinese Cinderella as a must-read for anyone aged nine years and older. The themes open up important areas of discussion: sibling rivalry; rejection; betrayal; and inspiring triumph over adversity.
Additionally, China’s ever-increasing role in our world today and in generations to come, gives even more reason for readers to hear of Adeline’s childhood.