When Mao's Cultural Revolution took hold in China in June 1966, Ange Zhang was thirteen years old. Ange's father was a famous writer whose "Yellow River Cantata" was considered by many to be the anthem of the Chinese Revolution. Shortly after the revolution began,many of Ange's classmates joined the Red Guard, Mao's youth movement, and they drove their teachers out of the classrooms. Ange and his friends now spent their days memorizing Mao's quotations and pasting posters in the streets. But in the weeks that follow Ange discovered that his father's fame as a writer now meant that he was a target of the new regime and that Ange himself was characterized as a "black kid," unable to join the Red Guard. Ange's whole world had fallen apart.When his father was arrested, he began to question everything that was happening in his country. He secretly read every book in his father's library, and through his reading discovered the beginnings of another view of the world.
Finally, Ange was forced to join many other young urban Chinese students in the countryside for re-education. While life in the village was challenging physically, Ange found emotional space to develop his own artistic talent.
Gr. 5-8. In a straightforward, unemotional manner, this autobiography tells of a teenager's coming-of-age during China's Cultural Revolution. Thirteen years old in 1966, Ange takes pride in his father's standing as a writer and Red Army officer until the Red Guards suddenly denounce his father as a counter-revolutionary. Wanting desperately to belong, Ange joins a Red Guard group. But a violent encounter opens his mind to questions, and reading forbidden books by Western authors opens his thoughts. Sent to a farm in 1968, Ange works hard in the fields, continues to read, and rediscovers his love of art. The book ends with a brief epilogue on later events in his life and an excellent, seven-page section entitled "China's Cultural Revolution."On nearly every page, Zhang's distinctive artwork opens a window into his past. At times painterly, at times reminiscent of silk-screened posters, his computer-assisted illustrations are beautifully composed and often dramatic. The book also includes reproductions of period posters, artifacts, and black-and-white photos. Reminiscent of A Little Tiger in the Chinese Night: An Autobiography in Art (1993) by Song Nan Zhang, a fellow Chinese-Canadian artist, this handsome book provides a memorable introduction to the Cultural Revolution.