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Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter Mass Market Paperback – March 13, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

Chinese Cinderella is the perfect title for Adeline Yen Mah's compelling autobiography in which, like the fairy-tale maiden, her childhood was ruled by a cruel stepmother. "Fifth Younger Sister" or "Wu Mei," as Yen Mah was called, is only an infant when her father remarries after her mother's death. As the youngest of her five siblings, Wu Mei suffers the worst at the hands of her stepmother Niang. She is denied carfare, frequently forgotten at school at the end of the day, and whipped for daring to attend a classmate's birthday party against Niang's wishes. Her father even forgets the spelling of her name when filling out her school enrollment record. In her loneliness, Wu Mei turns to books for company: "I was alone with my beloved books. What bliss! To be left in peace with Cordelia, Regan, Gonoril, and Lear himself--characters more real than my family... What happiness! What comfort!" Even though Wu Mei is repeatedly moved up to grades above those of her peers, it is only when she wins an international play-writing contest in high school that her father finally takes notice and grants her wish to attend college in England. Despite her parent's heartbreaking neglect, she eventually becomes a doctor and realizes her dream of being a writer.

Teens, with their passionate convictions and strong sense of fair play, will be immediately enveloped in the gross injustice of Adeline Yen Mah's story. A complete glossary, historical notes on the state of Chinese society and politics during Yen Mah's childhood, and the legend of the original Chinese Cinderella round out this stirring testimony to the strength of human character and the power of education. (Ages 10 to 15) --Jennifer Hubert --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Mah revisits the territory she covered in her adult bestseller, Falling Leaves, for this painful and poignant memoir aimed at younger readers. Blamed for the loss of her mother, who died shortly after giving birth to her, Mah is an outcast in her own family. When her father remarries and moves the family to Shanghai to evade the Japanese during WWII, Mah and her siblings are relegated to second-class status by their stepmother. They are given attic rooms in their big Shanghai home, they have nothing to wear but school uniforms, and they subsist on a bare-bones diet while their stepmother's children dine sumptuously. Mah finds escape from this emotionally barren landscape at school, but the academic awards she wins only enrage her jealous siblings and stepmother, and she is eventually torn from her auntAher one championAand shipped off to boarding school. That Mah eventually soars above her circumstances is proof of her strength of character. The author recreates moments of cruelty and victory so convincingly that readers will feel almost as if they're in the room with her. She never veers from a child's sensibility; the child in these pages rarely judges the actions of those around her, she's simply bent on surviving. Mah easily weaves details of her family's life alongside the traditions of China (e.g., her grandmother's bound feet) and the changes throughout the war years and subsequent Communist takeover. This memoir is hard to put down. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Mass Market Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Laurel Leaf; Reissue edition (March 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440228654
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440228653
  • Product Dimensions: 4.6 x 0.8 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (373 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #332,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 14, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Totally captivating,simply written.A study in bravery and strength of character of a sort unknown to me as a child.Despite the wealth of her Shanghai family Dr Mah vividly describes a life ofbeing ignored,routinely ill-treated almost constantly between the ages of four and fourteen.I kept asking how parents with any heart at all could treat a courageous small child so cruelly.(Forgetting to pick her up from school on her first day in first grade? Beating her until her nose bled because school friends came to her home?Not attending any of her school prize days?) I bought this book at Hong Kong airport last Monday and read it three times through between there and New York.I kept turning back to the haunting face of the eight year old Adeline on the paperback cover.I repeatedly found tears rolling down my cheeks not just out of pity but in appreciation of her strength and resillience.Many adult Americans would still be spending time with a psychotherapist and blaming their failures on this type of childhood.In Adeline Mah's case it gave her a strength and determination I must say I envy.She may still be suffering but I found this book inspirational.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on January 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Chinese Cinderella, by Adeline Yen Mah is a beautifully written, tragic, and moving true story of an unwanted daughter. Adeline Yen Mah tells the story of her bitter childhood in a touching and powerful way that makes you fall into the book and hang onto every word. The book takes place in China at the end of W.W.II and during the time when Communism is invading. Adeline's mother dies giving birth to her and her family blames her for the death of her mother. Her father then marries an evil, powerful, and rich, French-Chinese woman who despises Adeline from the day they meet. The stepmother takes away everything dear to her (including the only person who ever loved her) and greatly favors her siblings over her. She tries to disown Adeline from the family. Throughout the book little Adeline shows tremendous courage overcoming struggles and hardships from the age of four. I highly recommend this book because of its captivating emotional detail and because of its China's history is woven into the story and hidden between lines. I also recommend the book because of the horrible truth that the story is real. Adeline Yen Mah describes her feelings about her situation so vividly, that it is almost like you can see into this little child's mind and heart. I truly respect her ability to reopen a wound that is not yet healed and bring these memories to the surface, while trying to find words to express them to the reader. For, example, when her parents (her father and her stepmother) first took her away from her home in Tianjin to go to Shanghai without her Aunt Baba, little Adeline is terrified and lonely.Read more ›
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Sara Westhead on December 31, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I first read Adeline Yen Mah's book, Falling Leaves, and recognized Adeline Yen Mah's name when my sister gave me this book for Christmas.

Few children in the West can fully understand what it means to go without, particularly the love of parents. Even when there isn't much money to go around, most of the families in the US or Bermuda still have family that do the best they can to make sure each child knows that they are an important part of the family. In other cultures, this isn't always the case as superstition can lead to believing that a newborn child left behind when a mother dies in childbirth is cursed.

That was the case for Adeline. Her older siblings treated her brutily for "killing" their mother. Her step-mother wished she, and her full siblings, weren't around. And her father, her own father, didn't know her birthday, or could he even remember her real, Chinese name.

In spite of being abandoned and mentally, emotionally and physically abused, Adeline proved that even the youngest child can rise above adversity. She knew that she had a responsibility to at least herself to apply herself to her studies to make something of herself so that she wouldn't be forced getting married at a young age and never finishing school, like her older sister.

I encourage parents, especially mothers, to pick up a copy of this book for their children, especially their daughters. It will help children better understand the value of what they have and how to appreciate it so much more.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on August 20, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this book for a school book report--if the story is just the right amount of sadness, I love it, but this was downright depressing--yet somehow intriguing. I understand it's Adeline Yen Mah's story, she can't change it, but I feel like the terrible parts were extreme and the happy parts were somehow not. I admire Ms. Mah for her triumph, but I can't stand to think of everything she had to go through. I wouldn't recommend it for children younger than ten. However everyone's opinions are different, for example, my best friend loves a book I can't stand. Please don't decide whether or not to buy the book from this review--use the description. But in conclusion I have to say, congratulations to Ms. Mah for eventually succeeding.
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