Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Gang of One: Memoirs of a Red Guard” as Want to Read:
Gang of One: Memoirs of a Red Guard
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Gang of One: Memoirs of a Red Guard

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  175 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
In 1966 twelve-year-old Fan Shen, a newly minted Red Guard, plunged happily into China’s Cultural Revolution. Disillusion soon followed, then turned to disgust and fear when Shen discovered that his compatriots had tortured and murdered a doctor whose house he’d helped raid and whose beautiful daughter he secretly adored. A story of coming of age in the midst of monumental ...more
Paperback, 282 pages
Published March 1st 2006 by Bison Books (first published April 1st 2004)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Gang of One, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Gang of One

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jul 19, 2011 Dwight added it

A memoir that lives up to its billing, Gang of One relays some of Fan Shen’s experiences during the Cultural Revolution and his struggle to leave China. His disillusionment and reaction leads to a triumph of the will and intellect. One aspect of his book I though might resonate with blook bloggers/readers was the recurring theme of the importance of literature in his life. A few examples of this theme in the book:

- The book opens with Shen’s participation
Mar 29, 2015 Monza rated it it was amazing
It's been over 9 years since I read this book. I remember I started with a chapter a day before bed. And by the third or fourth nights I couldn't stop reading it and ended up finishing the whole book. It was the morning then when I finished it and I was full of emotion and tears. It is still the best book I have read since.

Gang of One reminded me of what hard work and dedication and persistence are, which I think I forgot after years working for a big corporation. This book is about survival: w
Nov 18, 2011 Kim rated it really liked it
This was really a great book. I have never read a book that has helped me to understand how people operate in a communist/dictatorship society as well as this book. I did wonder if the author was truly honest about his experience. He seems to observe lots of atrocities, but always be an innocent bystander who is much more sympathetic to western morality than the perpetrators. In the end, it doesn't really matter, because he is so insightful to the communist machine.

Something I learned from the b
Brad Felix
Aug 26, 2013 Brad Felix rated it really liked it
It's hard to imagine the tyranny of government as a modern-day American. We have never seen insanity to the degree of the Cultural Revolution in our lifetime. During my own trip to China, I was puzzled by the deep cultural hold Chairman Mao had on the country (memorials, pictures, statures, etc.) given all the terrible things I had learned about his period of power.

I guess, in retrospect, it's easy to look back and see someone (or an entire political party) as power-hungry dictators. But, I mus
Oct 23, 2011 Paul rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't know much about Chinese culture or history, so this book was enlightening from the Cultural Revolution of the 60's to the 80's when the author was finally able to get his long-sought visa/passport to come to the United States to study. Overall, I thought it was the story of a selfish, self-centered person who would use anything from feigning sickness to bribing people with liquor or cigarettes to achieve his goals, whether it was getting out of the hard agricultural labor of a village ...more
Mar 10, 2010 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
In 1966 twelve-year-old Fan Shen, a newly minted Red Guard, plunged happily into China's Cultural Revolution. Disillusion soon followed, then turned to disgust and fear when Shen discovered that his compatriots had tortured and murdered a doctor whose house he'd helped raid and whose beautiful daughter he secretly adored. A story of coming of age in the midst of monumental historical upheaval, Shen's Gang of One is more than a memoir of one young man's harrowing experience during a time of ...more
David Marxer
Nov 29, 2010 David Marxer rated it it was amazing
Although I've read a seemingly mountian of books, both fiction and non-fiction, about the Cultural and post Cultural Revolutionary China this was the best! This memoir is so filled with humor, tragedy, silliness and deadly seriousness of coming of age in the midst of historical upheaval that it's sometimes difficult to believe it's not fiction. Every stage of the author's journey is first hopefull for the promise of escape to a better life, then the realization that he only escaped to another, ...more
Nov 26, 2015 Cinsoares rated it really liked it
I've read a number of books about the Cultural Revolution in China but nothing from this perspective and none as eloquent.

This is the story of man overcoming all odds but always mindful of how his actions affect those he cares about. The main character is brave,daring,intelligent, tenacious but most of all possesses a caring heart which, under the circumstances, is rather remarkable.

Gang of One provides an in depth look at life during the Cultural Revolution and the blending of Traditional Chin
Sep 15, 2014 Greg rated it it was ok
Shelves: 1968
Fan Shen's memoir of growing up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution is a heck of a read--fast paced and packed with interesting stuff. In fact, that's the problem. It's total BS. He somehow manages to show up at the exact perfect moment in each event of Chinese history, and amazingly, so does his future wife (who he leaves abruptly to satisfy his all-important ambition). It's pretty clear Fan Shen set out to write the ultimate Chinese Horatio Alger story of a Red Guard made good, one designed ...more
Mar 27, 2016 Jessie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
For anyone interested in twentieth-century Chinese culture and history, this read is, I believe, essential. A story of a Chinese man who moved to the USA after experiencing some of the most chaotic historical events in this century (for example the Cultural Revolution), in China, this story does not just depict the suffering of many but also the courage, luck and ability of many individuals to manouevre themselves through a period of great uncertainty. This book holds wider importance as a piece ...more
Shana Han
May 14, 2013 Shana Han rated it it was amazing
I read this book in Korean translation. I think it is a very great book to read if you want to learn more about the Chinese and the modern history of China. The writer wrote it with his own experience and it's very real. This is a hidden treasure. Please read.. otherwise you would regret. I took 15 minutes to find its English title, his name in English to just make a review on it .. just because I really want others to have the chance to read it.
Jan 21, 2009 Maren rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended by Jay Nordlinger of National Review fame. Because he is one of my favorite columnists with vast knowledge of human rights I took him at his word that this was an incredible story of survival in communist China under the Red Guard. Fan Shen tells his own story of survival and triumph of his desire for freedom. This book is, without a doubt, one of the best books I've ever read.
Michelle  Allen
Jul 28, 2013 Michelle Allen rated it it was amazing
I read this book a few years ago in college. Fan Shen was my professor and had the class read the book. Not knowing much about Chinese culture/revolution at all I remember this book being very enlightening and educational! Glad to have had the opportunity to know the author and read it. Great respect here!
Charles Burns
Jun 17, 2015 Charles Burns rated it it was amazing
Extraordinary story and enjoyable reading. Fan Shen had a true revolutionary spirit that he turned against the subjugation and persecution of the Cultural Revolution in China. He succeeded where many of his friends and tormentors failed. Story ends in January 1985, begs an epilogue (at least) be written to know what has happened to author in the last 30 years. CSB
Oct 10, 2008 Carey rated it liked it
Not a page turner but I did enjoy it more than I thought I would. I think it was good timing to read it right after the Olympics in China and for a memoir, it wasn't too bad. The author finally got out of China and now lives in MN which I think made me emjoy it more.
Feb 26, 2010 Joyce rated it it was amazing
This book reminds me why I am so fascinated by memoirs. Well written and honest, his struggle to beat the system using the system makes me so, so thankful that my family left China right before the Cultural Revolution.
Jessica Taylor
Jun 20, 2010 Jessica Taylor rated it really liked it
I love books that open my eyes to a time period or culture I didn't know much about. There is some difficult subject matter, but I thought it was written in a way that didn't dwell too much on it. A truly amazing story of rising above the lot life had given this man.
May 05, 2009 Jacquie rated it really liked it
Excellent book- 4.5. An amazing story of one man's escape from Communist China during the 80's-a process that took him years, and much creativity, to accomplish. I think had I been in his situation I would have given up at some point, but this guy was tenacious to say the least.
Oct 07, 2007 Joel marked it as to-read
Shen wrote an influential article about his difficulties in learning English composition as a Chinese. I was delighted to find that he'd written an autobiography...but I doubt I'll find a copy in China!
Aug 29, 2008 Amanda rated it really liked it
Great book. Didn't know a lot about Chinese culture or the Communist Revolution so this book was a great place to start.
Nov 13, 2011 Janet rated it really liked it
Shelves: cefc-bookclub
Very interesting book that made me want to ask the author all kinds of questions. Read for book club.
Oct 18, 2010 Janet added it
Recommended to Janet by: a professor
At first I didn't think I would enjoy it but it was great. It has a nice story line, and you get the chance to learn about history. The end got me.
Sep 09, 2013 Linda rated it liked it
Reading about the hardships and the party control in rural China makes me wonder if that still is the way it is today.
Mar 02, 2013 Vivian rated it really liked it
Another now Minnesotan author... The author grew up in China during the cultural revolution and now teaches English at a college in southern Minnesota. What a life. Glad to be living here!
Sep 20, 2008 Pamela rated it really liked it
It was SOOO interesting watching the Olympics in China after reading this book. I looked at the Chinese people and REALLY wondered what their lives are like.
Nov 01, 2007 James rated it it was amazing
This is a look into how china was in the 60s to 80s, some parts are pretty unbelievable, but its also inspiring for how the main dude tricks the stupid bueocracy of china into letting him survive.
Tara rated it it was amazing
Jun 03, 2008
Joanna rated it it was amazing
Dec 06, 2015
Joyce rated it it was amazing
Jan 28, 2014
Shaloy rated it really liked it
Jul 12, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison
  • A Song for Mary: An Irish-American Memory
  • Spider Eaters
  • Confessions: An Innnocent Life in Communist China
  • Wading Home
  • 10 Books Every Conservative Must Read: Plus Four Not to Miss and One Impostor
  • Final Moments: Nurses' Stories about Death and Dying
  • Ravenous: A Food Lover's Journey from Obsession to Freedom
  • Harriet Tubman: The Moses of Her People
  • Son of the Revolution
  • To the Edge of the Sky: A Story of Love, Betrayal, Suffering, and the Strength of Human Courage
  • Unbillable Hours: A True Story
  • Feather in the Storm: A Childhood Lost in Chaos
  • Grass Soup
  • Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men's Journey to Bethlehem
  • My Splendid Concubine
  • Like Family: Growing Up in Other People's Houses: A Memoir
  • The Bitter Sea: Coming of Age in a China Before Mao

Share This Book