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Beijing Doll Paperback – August 3, 2004

2.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What matters about this semi-autobiographical coming-of-age "novel," cobbled together from the journal entries of a teenage scribbler who grew up in Beijing in the 1990s, is that it was banned in mainland China, ostensibly for its too-frank portrayal of the sex-drenched, drug-addled and music-obsessed world of that country's materialistic middle-class youngsters. The ban places it alongside two other "cruel youth" Chinese novels, Mian Mian's Candy and Wei Hui's Shanghai Baby, both of which rode their notoriety (and little else) to decent sales in the West. Chun's tale begins near the end of her third year in middle school as she fails her high school entrance exams and promptly embarks on an aimless and relentlessly solipsistic odyssey of love, sex, rock shows and academic disappointments—all part of a fight for some hazily defined freedom—punctuated here and there with suicide fantasies. There is no sense of either growth or dissolution in any of this, despite the novel's constant claims to both. Chun shows some promise as a writer, as evidenced by bits of refreshing literary experimentation and a surprising command of irony; she has also wooed the respected Goldblatt as translator. Whether she realizes her potential, however, may depend largely on how well she shuts out the dubious praise she has won, in China and abroad, with this book.
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Review

"Reveals the cruel youth of a new generation...reflects upon the fast changing society of Mainland China." —Asian Weekly

"This original...important book reveals with brutal frankness that the cruelties and frustrations of youth are not lost in translation. —Teen Vogue

"Reading about her adventures is like living vicariously through the most uninhibited girl you know." —YM

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; First Edition first Printing edition (August 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594480206
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594480201
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,005,894 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
Chun Sue makes a memorable debut with "Beijing Doll," a blistering roman a clef set during Sue's mid-to-late teens. While Sue herself can come across as naive and sometimes unlikable, her raw emotions and confusion make this feel a bit like a real-life Chinese "Catcher in the Rye."

She is a disaffected fifteen-year-old, from a middle-class family in Beijing. Loves punk-rock bands, writes poetry, longs to drop out of school, and struggles with her own feelings of nihilistic despair and pessimism. Soon after the book opens, she loses her virginity to Li Qi, only to find that he has a girlfriend and doesn't love her.

She immerses herself in the rock scene again, and gets involved with a rising indie-rock god/poet, then a Finnish tourist, while going to a shrink, getting magazine jobs and dropping in and out of school -- a merry-go-round of sex, rock, love, and a neverending search for a vague freedom.

"Beijing Doll" was famously banned in China. And it's not surprising -- this isn't exactly a complimentary look at Chinese youth. Chun Sue's story isn't too different from that of many other disaffected teens, but she does bring a lot of unbridled dark energy to it. Her alter ego is a girl who has seen enough to be jaded, but is naive enough to still not know quite how it all works.

Her writing is spare and sharp, with the occasional lapses into poetry. At times the story can get a bit monotonous -- the parade of brief boyfriends tend to blur together, as do Sue's semi-suicidal fantasies. And many older readers will find her angst and complaints annoying. However, Chun Sue does do a good job of capturing the confusion, the contradictions, and the depression of being a teenager.
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By goldgreen on October 24, 2015
Format: Paperback
Imagine, Anne Frank as a spoilt, self-centred, misanthrope living in Beijing at the turn of the 21st century and you will go some way to understanding this book. Chun Sue's chapters read like bits of a diary edited together, most of them tracing the passage of affairs with boyfriends who are as vacant and self-obsessed as she is. This is a special, stand out book for me, in that it is a credible and an original voice. There is very little sense that it has been styled on anything else. Plus, in the way our hero is so imperfect, Chun Sue captures the shallow life of so many inner city, fashion, image obsessed teenagers. As a fan of the punk spirit, I admire the book's determination to expose the phoniness of the world Chun Sue sees around her. The cover in its design, of course, references the Sex Pistols' statement of insolence and anger 'Never Mind The Bollocks'.
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Format: Paperback
"Beijing Doll" reads like the diary of an indecisively boy-crazy teenage girl . Unlike the average youth diarist, however, Chun Sue wrote for music magazines early in her high school career in order to pursue a personal passion and to draw her away from her oppressively strict high school environs. A rock music addict who embraced and wrote about the Beijing punk rock scene, Chun Sue depicts much teenage angst and moodiness in "Beijing Doll," but seemingly fails to grow out of it. Her voice is fickle in the book, but supported with spurts of vague determination and personal strength. Overall, a decent debut and coming-of-age book by a young writer; any later efforts should be more substantial.
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Format: Paperback
Given that this book was written 10 years ago, I have to say it was okay. I read it for a class, and it was interesting, but what is probably the most interesting is that it is a middle class perspective of rebellion and youth in a country that does not have much of a middle class. This Chun Sue has enough money to spend on fripperies, on shoes and getting her hair bleached and dyed. She can CHOOSE to go to school, and she's not really suffering. She even gripes about one of her boyfriends' mothers being a typical rural mother story. Is this really the typical Chinese adolescence?

What seems very blase and boring to Western readers is actually very different than a lot of books that came out of China. Of course, the writing style is very simple, and the angst of teenhood is palatable. For Americans, with our plethora of angsty young adult fiction, this is old hat. If it had been American fiction, I would have just chucked it. But it's a unique Chinese view and worth reading.

If you have any interest in books about women in China, try reading Factory Girls for another perspective of young girls in China. The girls in that book are seriously struggling and looking for the Bigger Better Deal. They are sent out to work as young as 14 in that book, and they responsibly send money home so their families to survive. I don't know if it's the right perspective, but it is a totally different one from this spoiled version. I mean, her mom took her to go party. What the hell is that? My AMERICAN mom wouldn't have done that, and if I had dropped out of school, I would've been punished severely.

What's done well is the discussion of the underground music scene in China. I didn't know much about it, so this was a refreshing glance. Otherwise, this book was okay. I've read worse.
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