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Mao's Last Dancer [Hardcover]

4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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My parents, as newlyweds, lived with my father's six brothers, their wives, his two sisters and their children, a total of over twenty people crammed into a six-room house. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful "feel-good" story! Jan. 1 2009
I wasn't sure what to expect when my book club recently selected this book, and I had visions of reading horror stories and learning of the atrocities of life during Mao's regime.
It turned out to be quite the opposite -- it is a deeply personal, heart-warming story of family love and triumph over adversity. I did learn about life in China during this period, but the focus of the story was on the author's relationships and his discovery and subsequent struggle for personal freedom.
The book was engaging and inspiring, and I found myself crying and laughing out loud at times. I especially enjoyed his description of arriving in the US for the first time. A thoroughly enjoyable read!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Touching story March 24 2004
By A Customer
A very quick and enjoyable read - not a dull moment. Very interesting to learn how the peasants of communist China lived and their delusions of this side of the world. I felt both inspired by his struggle to succeed and grateful for all those things we have that make our life far less arduous.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb account of a glorious life May 20 2004
When my wife and I moved to Texas in the early 1980's, the Houston Ballet's performances were a refreshing antidote to the Southwest's unrelenting commercialism and fixation with football and barbecue. Under Ben Stevenson's lively direction, this troupe of superb athletes pushed the bounds of gravity with grace and verve. Among the foremost in their number was a supple young oriental dancer who was obviously feeling his way toward familiarity with American culture, but always showed uncommon spirit, sensitivity, and vitality in his approach to movement. This was Li Cunxin (pronounced Shwin-Sin). He became our favorite male dancer, and his photos are on our walls today.
This marvelous autobiography by Mr. Li opened our eyes to the unimaginable gulf he had to leap in order to appear before us. When he was plucked from among millions of other peasant children to attend Beijing Dance Academy, the train ride to Beijing was his first. His meals at the Academy were the first time he'd ever had enough to eat. His untrained tendons and muscles were ruptured repeatedly by the contortions he was forced into. Beijing's approval for him to leave China on scholarship to Houston Ballet Academy was China's first such concession to an artist in almost forty years. The first time he ever felt air-conditioning was on the plane to America. His first automobile ride was from the Houston airport to Ben Stevenson's house. And so on - the simple dance outfit purchased for him upon his arrival cost the equivalent of two years of his father's salary in China.
The book contains hundreds of poignant reminders of the risks Mr. Li took in breaking the bounds of his peasant heritage and infuriating both the Chinese government and his American friends when he defected.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Against All Odds April 12 2004
By A Customer
I agree with the other reviewer-this was a most addictive read! I saved it for vacation and was so happy I did-I simply could not put it down. One of my all time best books.
Having studied in China for one summer in the 80's, I wish I'd had a better understanding of the peasant life and hardships the people in China faced as described in this book. The government was very careful as to what we were told and what we could visit during our studies. It is a beautiful country, made even more so by this book.
We adopted our daughter from China in 1999 and I am so anxious for us to make a return visit so she can see her country and share the pride of their hard work and efforts as described so well by Li Cunxin.
The first part of the book deals with his childhood and family. Li Cunxin's remarkable recounting of his childhood in China is so vivid with details that I could feel and taste the food and items he describes. Because of the great details, I became so emotionally attached to the family. I found myself crying each time he mentions how he missed his family (in part 2 and 3 of the book). His pain and longing were so real.
Against all odds, he becomes a successful ballet star in America (Part 2). He describes our extravagance and lavish living conditions and the cultural shock to him. I laughed out loud at some of these instances! He recounts with humor his amazement at being served food on the airplane, feeling guilty someone was serving him, and asking the flight attendant if he could help her wash dishes. As he shares his delight in the simple things we take for granted (taking a bath), he gives great insight into what was going on in his mind as he experiences freedom for the first time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Inspriational Story of Escape from Poverty April 18 2004
I found this to be an extraordinary memoir. The book traces Cunxin Li's life growing up as a child under conditions of severe poverty in a small village during China's Cultural Revolution. Li's account of the hunger and deprivation during his early childhood offers a vivid glimpse of rural life under state socialism. The story moves from here to the discipline and perhaps even the cruelty of the Peking Dance academy where Li spent his teenage years. Finally, we follow the author to the United States where he embarks on a remarkable career as a principal dancer for the Houston ballet. For those interested in Chinese life, the immigrant experience, the Chinese-American community, ballet and the arts, and even political intrigue, this story is a gripping must-read.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent..
Just as expected.....excellent.....John
Published 7 days ago by john skirving
4.0 out of 5 stars Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin
I was captivated by this book. liked the characters and felt I learned a lot about the control put upon Chinese people by the regime. Read more
Published 17 months ago by mamap@shaw.ca
5.0 out of 5 stars Living under a Communist regime
This was a most interesting story of life under a Communist system. It will make you feel like you are there with the author growing up under a very different political system... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Ken and Judy Robertson
5.0 out of 5 stars happy
I was very happy to be able to get this book that I had heard so much about. It arrived in good time and in good shape.
Published on Feb. 4 2012 by Jan Church
4.0 out of 5 stars Read it by the fire
This story struck a chord with me as I considered the fact that the writer was born in China within a year of my own Canadian birth. How different were our childhoods. Read more
Published on Dec 6 2011 by Yora Doder
2.0 out of 5 stars Maos last dancer
I received a child's edition of this book. There was no prior indication that it was not the full adult version.
Published on Feb. 28 2011 by Invicta
4.0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming story
Whilst this wasn't a great work of literature, the story was tender and embracing. I couldn't put it down and even on closing the book I was still left with the emotion of Li's... Read more
Published on July 16 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars An amazing political story.
It begins in 1961 .. not back in the 20's or 30's, when it would have been easier to believe such poverty was possible. Read more
Published on July 5 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous!
This book is wonderfully written, and once you start it, you will not be able to put it down. I know many Chinese people who grew up in China during Mao's Cultural Revolution and... Read more
Published on June 4 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars From Yams to Beijing
Mao's Last Dancer is the best book I've read in a while. It's a book that grabs you and pulls you into thier celebrations, and their traditions. Read more
Published on May 28 2004 by Hannah B. Lee
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