Brittany's Reviews > Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter

Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah
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's review
Jan 19, 2012

really liked it
Read in January, 2012

The author's shorter autobiography focusing on her young life, this is a quick read. Though I had already read a few of her other books, I was pleased to see that this didn't feel like a rehash, and that her additions of Chinese characters for important names (with the use of parentheses) were not overly intrusive; though I found myself wishing a bit for a clearer typeface. As someone with a BA in Japanese language, I was able to read them and infer the reasons they were there specifically--in particular when she retold the incident of her grandfather teaching her how Chinese characters are constructed by combining meanings of parts to make a whole (for example, 貧 meaning 'poor', and being constructed of the characters 分 and 貝; "fragment" and "shell" respectively; sadly, she did not break it down this far in the actual Chinese text, which would possibly confuse someone without a background in Chinese or Japanese, as the top radical comes off in the printing as smudged and unreadable).

However, as a story, it is engaging enough, and you do feel for young Adeline as she is completely rejected by not only her stepmother, but her father, siblings, and half-siblings. Though their hatred is taken to an extreme (Adeline's mother died in childbirth, thus all her brothers and sisters blame her for their mother's death--and the other half-siblings are taught by their mother that Adeline is worthless), it does not at all seem unbelievable or contrived, especially if one has read other accurate memoirs of the time period. Mah does not try to make her life interesting, she just tells things as they were, and how she felt; and though it is a short book, it has a resonance other books about Chinese daughters, even other memoirs, may not have.

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