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L'ultimo ballerino di Mao

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  13,859 ratings  ·  1,365 reviews
From a desperately poor village in northeast China, at age eleven, Li Cunxin was chosen by Madame Mao's cultural delegates to be taken from his rural home and brought to Beijing, where he would study ballet. In 1979, the young dancer arrived in Texas as part of a cultural exchange, only to fall in love with America-and with an American woman. Two years later, through a ser ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published October 2010 by Cairo Editore (first published 2003)
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I didn't love, love, love this book, but I found it interesting and inspiring. Three stars. I felt much of it read as a young adult book. I in fact stopped my reading to go and check if it was directed toward kids. What do I find? I see that there are two editions, this one, which is for adults, and another one just for kids: Mao's Last Dancer Young Readers' Edition! I have looked into how they differ and have discovered that the children's has less details and less historical facts.

The author

I read this book a long time before joining Goodreads and writing reviews, so I didn't add anything here except my rating.
I do remember that I enjoyed (if you can enjoy such) reading about the cultural demands that were placed on those people. He truly was a brave young man!
I love historical and cultural books about Asia and Asian people.
Li Cunxin was the 6th of 7 sons born to a poor family in rural China. When Chairman and Madame Mao started their "cultural revolution" and decided to revive the Peking Dance Academy, they sent representatives throughout the country to find promising musical and artistic talent specifically from the children of peasants, workers, and soldiers. Li was chosen at age 11, taken from his family, and sent to the "big city" for rigorous training and indoctrination. He overcomes homesickness, lack of mot ...more
I started off unimpressed by this book; daily life in China during the Mao years is sad, yes, but familiar to anyone who has read anything set in that era. However once he was plucked away from his family and started his education proper the book really began; Li as an author found his voice around this part of the book and it was around this time that I decided to continue reading (I had been toying with the idea of giving up).

His struggles at school are familiar, but I'm not sure if Li examin
Mary Etta
Dec 17, 2011 Mary Etta rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mary Etta by: Vicky
November book group choice. Loved the film. Vicky recommended the book.

Many reasons to really like this book. It's a remarkable story of an admirable life in unusual circumstances. There is a continuity of influences, the foundation of his parents and family as well as influential teachers and friends, the Chinese fables that encouraged him in very hard times--the mango and the well. Many keeper scenes/quotes.

“Mango is the most wonderful fruit with the most unique taste… Admire the unique shap
Rachel Lightwood
Maos’ Last Dancer was a mix of emotions for me. While I thoroughly enjoyed the story that was being told, the execution and the progression of the plot didn’t work for me. The beginning dragged on and on, and the ending seemed impossibly far away.

I really want to stress that the story was fantastic though. I had no idea the level of unimaginable poverty that Cunxin suffered from. Call me naïve, call me whatever but the movie – which I’ve seen multiple times – doesn’t even begin to skim the surf
Fact: I'm actually North Korean. My parents lived most of their lives in the South, but both of them originally hail from the North.

When we were kids, my dad would occasionally gather us all 'round the table and tell us tales of North Korea. He would tell us about how his family struggled to survive during the war, and how Communism had ruined the country so that everyone was poor. Families only got a small ration of beef every year, that they would boil over and over again in order to make it l
A simple and yet beautiful memoir of a ballet dancer, who was taken from his peasant classed family as a young 11 year old boy in Qingdao, and brought to Beijing, to attend a dance school that received the patronage of Madam Mao Tze Dong.

Cunxin takes us through his childhood, growing up as one of 7 sons of poor peasant family during China's Cultural Revolution. They are all subjected to Mao's communist propaganda, believing China to be a glorious nation and that despite the fact that they are po
This is not the type of book I normally pick up, but after reading the first through chapters through my email book club, I requested it from the library. Tim thought it was an unusual choice for me so he picked it up and started reading the middle of the book, as he is wont to do. He told me I would like it and find it fascinating. I already suspected that! This book was pretty hard to put down, and I could only think of two pages that were boring (and they were summarizing what happened over a ...more
What a wonderful book! I cannot believe what some people endure. I just learned this was made into a movie and I look forward to seeing the adaptation. Very well written.
I'm just putting this down for now because I left it at home for the summer....not because I don't love it!
A Goodreads friend had seen the film and recommended it so I watched the DVD first and highly recommend it both for the dramatic story and the beautiful dancing (Li Cunxin is played in the movie by a dancer) I liked it so much I went to the library and got book. I am a ballet fan and I am embarrassed to say that I had not heard of Li Cunxin, although he performed with the Houston Ballet for 16 years and made guest appearances with most of the major ballet companies. There are more elegantly writ ...more
Li Cunxin overcomes life's challenges and through sheer discipline, drive and the motivation to break through the shackles of communism, does just that. Born in a commune in northeast China, Li's impoverished family struggled to put food on the table, making sacrifices for each other as the bare essentials for basic living were virtually nonexistent. Despite the challenging conditions of everyday life, his parents taught him the values and principles that became his life compass as he overcame t ...more
Jeffrey Crimmel
Finished Mao's Last Dancer today. I saw the movie first and I found the book just as fascinating. The dept of poverty that Li came from and his luck to be chosen and became a dancer meant the stars were lined up for his success in the world. I now see how the Chinese are the best in gymnastics and other events they train for. The dedication that Li gave to dancing when he realized it was his way out of poverty, and the continued level of training he gave to dance after his defection to the state ...more
Li Cun Xin, born in the rural area of China. He was the 6th son in the family and his family was poor. His peasant life changes when Chairman Mao started “cultural revolution” and decided to find representatives throughout china to find talented people to learn dancing. Li Cun Xin was chosen to go to Beijing and be trained as a professional dancer. Throughout the book, you can see the struggle between Cun Xin and his love for his family. At first he had homesickness and hated dancing. But soon, ...more
I got this book from a friend --- when he brought it back to me from Australia. My friend was leading a 'trading' workshop, and this author was in his course. The book was sooooooooo good. I never saw the movie. Has anyone? You, Susan?
This book was a gift from a friend. Apparently the difference between the Young Readers Edition she gave me and the original is that the original goes into greater detail. Maybe I'll end up reading the original later down the road if I find it.

This is the story of Li Cunxin, a boy born in the final days of Chairman Mao's reign over China, whose only future lies as a Peasant. One day a group comes to his commune, announcing they are choosing children from all over China for a ballet school. Li at
This is such a beautifully written memoir. It's not so much the language that is beautiful, but the content and the emotion captured in the words. The author details the hardships of his childhood and the life of his parents and his brothers in Communist China. It's such a stark contrast to the life he ends up living in the West and I so enjoyed reading about all the vast differences he found between the two countries and cultures.

The writing about China during that period was certainly interest
I read this book in a little under 24 hours, almost unable to put it down. In this memoir, Li writes of an impoverished childhood in rural China in the 60's and 70's under the Mao Zedong regime. He deals frankly with his everyday realities: disease, starvation, accidental injury and the lack of basic survival needs intertwined with unconditional love, laughter and the incredibly strong value system of a proud family. He writes of being snatched from this world to the only slightly less brutal wo ...more
"You're going to know more about Mao than most experts," commented my husband after seeing this book on the table.

While I may not have learned a lot about Mao, Li Cunxin did an incredible job sharing his experiences as a peasant child growing up under Mao's heavy hand. Written with a sense of love for his time spent with his family, he made the hardships seem real, but not unbearable with the presence of his family to share the misery. His early years at Madame Mao's School for Ballet were much
I don't remember exactly what attracted me to this book, Mao's last dancer. It might have been the fact that I had just finished all the 'Chinese cinderella's' or maybe just because the book itself was so big and tempting. Either way I loved it and didn't put it down again till I was finished.

The category Mao's last dancer fits into is: A book that teaches you about another culture. The amount I learned about chinese culture from this book is incredible. The way that Li described it all meant I
Hooks you right in with the description of his parent's traditional wedding in China. This is a true story of a real person who is still alive and riveted me because he was growing up when I was and living this amazingly different life over there in China. That's the China of "Finish your dinner! Think of all the starving children in China." So it was really insightful for me to listen to a true account of what it was like for this starving child of China. The way Cunxin uses drive and disciplin ...more
I feel really sad for Li Cunxin, because he had to leave his family to go to Beijing. He was glad that he is going to meet chairman Mao but sadness over wrapped the happiness. The last day that he was spending with his family, I had a connection with his feeling. He said that he should have spend more time with his brothers. I have thought the same thing as him before in my life. When I heard that I am moving to Malaysia, I really thought that I should have spend more time with my friends.

I thi
When I lived in Houston I loved going to see their world-class ballet company perform, and Li Cunxin was one of my favorite dancers, so I was eager to read his autobiograghy. The book that I received from Amazon was the "Young Reader's Edition" and obviously simplified and shortened by about half from the original 480 pages. But it held my interest throughout, and I would love to read the adult version.
Khantey Lim
Such an inspiring non-fiction book. He fights through many barriers until at last he succeeds what he wants. I really admire how he doesn't stop what his doing, and continue to try many new ways to succeed what he wants. Nothing is impossible. I think he gets today also a great thank to his inspirational teachers as well like Teacher Xiao, he taught him so many things, and indirectly taught me too!
He is somehow similar to me when he first arrives to the Ballet Dance Academy, he could not cope w
I loved this book! I first saw the movie (I KNOW, that's not the way it's supposed to work. Sorry), and loved it, then found out it was also a book! The book had a lot more details and it also matched with what I'm reading in history with Nixon's visit to China in the 70's, so it was a perfect time for me to read this book. Hearing about Communist Propaganda and how it affected Cunxin was really amazing and saddening.

Also. The dedication that he had towards ballet was AMAZING!!!! I've considere
Wei Ye
Finally finished this book, Cunxin's story in America was a bit funny. It would be rather hard for an-eighteen-year-old boy to understand the huge gap between China and the West. I can see his struggle and maladjustment in a brand new environment. As a result, Cunxin's communism belief was shaken by his eager to freedom. I think his defection to China is still arguable. Was his first love a proper reason for the defection? I think Cunxin has more affection to the sense of freedom rather than his ...more
Nunca esqueça a sua origem. Trabalhe duro e construa a sua vida. Não olhe para trás!
I once met the daughter of a certain famous Russian ballet dancer and Soviet defector. I was buying garlicky humus and crackers at my local Co-op, and noticed the name tag of yet another granola crunching, carob-chip-cookie making Osh-Kosh-Bgosh overalls wearing co-op employee, and thought maybe her name seemed a little more socialist than the other non-corporate names, (you don't meet a lot of Madisons and Tylers at co-ops, do you), but I didn't realize who it was until a friend mentioned it to ...more
Oh I cried!! I cried so much!! I laughed and was blown away by his honesty and by the fact that he made fun of his own culture. I read the extended version and am amazed even that Cunxin cares enough about his readers to continue his story past that which he had originally intended.

On completion of this book I felt connected to Li and felt as if I could have been the reader who travelled to China and asked his Mum to cook for him. Cheeky buggar!

For someone who's first language is not English th
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Li Cunxin (pronounced “Lee Schwin Sing”) is a remarkable man borne of a remarkable story. He has published a remarkable book about his extraordinary life. In his runaway best selling autobiography, Mao' s Last Dancer, Li recounts his determination, perseverance, vision, courage and hard work, and in particular, the sacred family values and integrity that he learned in poverty-stricken China, which ...more
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“I had now tasted freedom, and I couldn't lie to myself about that.” 0 likes
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