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Mao's Last Dancer Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039915096X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399150968
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.5 x 3.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 748 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,846,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
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
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Linda Ibberson on Jan. 1 2009
Format: Paperback
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 By A Customer on March 24 2004
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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By A Customer on April 12 2004
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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