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Daughter of the River: An Autobiography Paperback – January 1, 2000

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (January 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802136605
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802136602
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #482,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


'A brilliant and sensitive writer I was very moved' Jung Chang --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

Hong Ying's Daughter of the River is a remarkable book--a memoir of China unlike any we have seen before. Acclaimed around the world, it is both a compelling self-portrait by a remarkable writer and an unforgettable expose of life at the bottom of Chinese society.

Hong Ying was born during the Great Famine of the early 1960s, which claimed the lives of tens of millions, including several of her relatives. Growing up in a slum on the bank of the Yangtze River, in a neighborhood veiled in fog and superstition, she was constantly aware of the sacrifices her family made so that she would survive. And as she neared her eighteenth birthday, she became determined to unravel some of the enigmas that had troubled her all her life: a stalker who had shadowed her since childhood, an anomalous record in her father's government file, and an unshakable feeling that she was an outsider in her own family.

At the same time, she began a relationship with a history teacher at her school, who awakened her to the possibility of dissent and to her own emerging womanhood. But, as she learned, the truth cuts both ways. While the professor taught her how to think outside of the borders the government had set, he himself was under political pressure that would prove unbearable.

Hong Ying's search for truth led to the discovery of family secret's that changed her life--and her perceptions of her parents, her sister, and herself--tragically and irrevocably. But these same events also set her free to leave home for good and become a writer. With raw intensity and fearless honesty, Daughter of the River follows China's trajectory through one woman's life, from the Great Famine through the Cultural Revolution to Tiananmen Square.

"This remarkable account of a childhood spent on the banks of the Yangtze River...explores the depths of personal and civil repression with an almost brutal grace."--The New Yorker

"Raw and powerful.... As you read [her] lacerating story, you feel that you have entered into the deepest truths of a tormented psyche, and into the truths as well of a bruised generation otherwise almost impossible for us to know."--Richard Bernstein, The New York Times

"Comparisons with Jung Chang's Wild Swans will be inevitable but Hong Ying's book more closely resemble Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, in which histories are brought to light and reminiscences are contrasted fascinatingly with the present.... Heartbreaking."--The Times (London)

"Arresting."--Editor's Choice, Chicago Tribune

"[An] immersion in the suffering of China's urban underclass during the years following the Great Famine of the early 1960s...[a book] of stark power.--The Boston Globe

"The China that Hong Ying depicts in her memoir Daughter of the River bears little resemblance to those cheery posters that were churned out by the millions during Mao's reign.... [Hong Ying's] resilience, imagination, and a fantastically protean energy...can only inspire awe."--Los Angeles Times

"Enthralling...a story of poverty told as frankly as Angela's Ashes; a story of oppression characterized by the paranoia of The Handmaid's Tale.... A haunting autobiography that could stir the most ungrateful critic of the U.S. government into thanksgiving for the freedoms that others only dream of and that we often take for granted.... More than the story of one woman; it is the story of so many suppressed souls who are looking for a champion. Hong Ying may be that voice in the dark."--Columbus Post-Dispatch

"At once lyrical and brutal...reminiscent of Angela's Ashes.... A major writer emerges here, combining flawlessly the often broken dreams of youth and the usually broken dreams of politics."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"An astonishing picture of inner fortitude, marshaled against insult and injury amid the turmoil and repression--both political and emotional--of mid-century China."--Publishers Weekly

"A beautifully written and deeply felt work."--Teen People

"We are permanently reminded of the horrors of modern Chinese history.... A moving book which will bring tears to the eyes."--The Spectator (London)

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Customer Reviews

This magisterial novel is bathed in a magical subdued atmosphere.
Ms. Ying has overcomed her many stuggles to become a successful writer, yet from her book you can feel how deep the scars truly are.
I just had a hard time reading/understanding/finishing this book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ryan Brenner on January 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It is true that this autobiography is bleak. It is dark, but it is a reflection of the poverty and oppression experienced by the peasant class in China, now and all during the rule of the Communist regime. How Hong Ying is able to evoke absolute beauty from this seemingly unending ugliness is beyond me. But she expertly does just that. Without thought or pretense, Hong Ying's writing sings immaculately from the page. Amazing prose. This book's importance lies in that it is the story of someone from the peasant class, and since it is always good to hear all different perspectives of the same or similar events in order to get a good all around picture of the times, Hong Ying's book is a must read. In commenting on the book to a friend, I said that perhaps Hong Ying and her family's saving grace was that they were already at the bottom of the totem pole. Because of this they didn't have to experience the worst of what the Cultural Revolution had to offer eventhough it touched their lives daily. The peasant class of China is what Mao Zedong strived to make all the people of China in the name of proletarianism. The fact that Hong Ying and her family were already of this class meant that many of the dynamics of the time that were sweeping through all classes above them settled into their class as normalcy somewhat. It's like a line from Joan Chen's movie "Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl;" at one point when Xiu Xiu is questioning where she is being sent, she is told that it doesn't matter because it's the same everywhere; a simple statement but poignant in just how dead on right it is. Therefore, you must appreciate even moreso when we are allowed to read of these events by all those who were a part of them be it peasant or merchant.Read more ›
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By michael on January 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
Hong Ying presents a raw, unpolished notation of her life in the slums of China. It is a look at the other side of Chinese society, as compared with Falling Leaves, Adeline Yen Mah. Hong's style is strong and captivating in it's own, almost amateurish way. Daughter of the river, is highly recommended for anyone interested in Chinese society and life, without a strongly political slant, which seems to pervade so many other Chinese autobiographies, Three Swans, for instance. All in all, a good read.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Dear Hong Ying
Thank you so much for sending me your book. I was totally gripped by your narrative and when I finished it I found myself weeping uncontrollably. There is so much in your story which strikes my raw emotion and which touches my heart deeply.This is not just because I feel instinctively tuned into the underworld you depicted so vividly due to similar experiences in my life in Chongqing. More importantly, it embodies almost exactly the literary project which has long been fermenting in my mind. I have always longed to read something or even write something which could show that big words such as freedom, democracy and human rights are not just some high-sounding principles; that they affect millions of ordinary people's lives in many concrete ways.
In my discipline of political science, the rise of East Asia in the 1980s spawned a huge industry of academic research on the relathionship between political system and economic development. For quite a while, Western scholars who were critical of their own democratic system joined the chorus of East Asian dictators such as Suharto, Lee Kuan Yew and Dr Mahathir (of Malaysia) to defend the "necessity" of authoritarianism for the sake of economic development and political stability. I think your book would be an ideal antidote to this typical "arm-chair" scholarship devoid of any sense of reality. To me, your book serves as a powerful warning that development without democracy simply
creates another privileged class standing above the law and everyone else. I am often angered and depressed by the world I live in. It seems to me so many human injustices stem ultimately from the fact that too many human beings are greedy and cruel.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By HLR on June 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
I read this book to see if I could use it in a college class I teach on young women and coming of age. After reading the split reviews on amazon.com, I decided to read the book for myself.

In short: I loved this book! It has a variety of issues that pertain to coming of age including the intersections between and among gender, race, culture, class, family, education, and politics.

The book is categorized as "Autobiography" but it could easily be categorized as "Autobiography/Women's Studies" for the range of women's issues it covers.

I will teach this book in the future. I would just advise my students, or any reader really, to pay attention to the dates as the book jumps around a lot and it helps to have a frame of reference (e.g. Hong Ying was born in 1962 so if she's talking about 1968 she is obviously 6 years old, but usually doesn't mention that fact) in which to view each segment of the story.

Highly recommended. The end of the book made my heart soar.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
I have read many accounts of life in China, and I found that Hong Ying's autobiography is outstanding. Most autobiographies have been written by Chinese intellectuals, but Hong Ying grew up in abject poverty. Her very survival is a testament to incredible perseverence. That she not only survived, but became a talented writer, is nothing short of miraculous. This book has been termed a "Chinese Angela's Ashes," and I believe that that is an apt comparison.
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