Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

Holley's Review #4 of 12

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
Library Journal Best Books of the Year 2001
New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age

Sijie takes the reader back to China during the Cultural Revolution. The narrator (unnamed) and his friend Luo are sent to a community high on a mountain called Phoenix of the Sky. In addition to the insult of being taken from their parents and friends, these two boys now spend endless days hauling baskets of sewage on their backs up the mountain to fertilize the fields. A far cry no doubt from the lives the two boys must have previously led as the children of medical professionals. The boys' lives take a turn for the better when they discover a friend in a nearby village who has smuggled banned books of western literature into the village with him. These books open up new worlds of ideas and aspirations for the two friends and they discover the price of hope.

I really liked this book as I do not remember studying much about the Cultural Revolution in school and I have not read many books in that setting. It is such an alien concept to me that I've always been quick to read the fiction I come across that surrounds it. One of my absolute favorites in this area is Xinran's Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet, if you are interested in some related reading.
Happy Reading!