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The Little Red Guard

3.8  ·  Rating details ·  500 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
Three generations of a family living under one roof reflect the dramatic transformations of an entire society in this memoir of life in 20th century China

When Wenguang Huang was nine years old, his grandmother became obsessed with her own death. Fearing cremation, she extracted from her family the promise to bury her after she died. This was in Xi’an, a city in central Chi
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 26th 2012 by Riverhead Books
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I miss me family :'(

This book focused on the author's life, his parents and his grandmother, particularly around the time the grandmother was preparing for her death. No, she wasn't dying in the beginning; she just wanted to be prepared for the inevitable. All she wanted was to be buried next to her dead husband back in her hometown of Henan. But at the time, communist China banned burial and forced cremation.
Grandma was skeptical. Neighbors had told her how crematorium workers never completely
Jun 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a very different kind of Chinese memoir than most I have read. It was more like a psychological portrait of a family. At the center of the book is the grandmother's wish to be buried in her ancestoral graveyard in her home town. This provides a touchstone for the book, as at first this goal is very unreachable due to the Cultural Revolution, but over time, it is more do-able and more poignant in how it affects the whole family. This book seems to me to be at its core a tragedy,very well ...more
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intimidate portrait of life in 20th century china, capturing three generations perspectives through one family.
Aug 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction, china
The theme of this book could be titled “Grandma’s coffin and her obsession with death”. This Chinese grandma, who raised the author Huang while his own mother was off working like a good Communist for the benefit of the Revolution, had her bound feet in the “old ways” of traditional China and would not be reconciled to the new way of handling death by cremation. Grandma put the entire household in strife for YEARS over this issue. Her insistence on a traditional burial in her place of birth beca ...more
Feb 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I hadn't read anything set in Communist China since Dal Sijie's novel Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress & was delighted to win Wenguang Huang's The LittleRed Guard: A Family Memoir from First Reads. The author is only slightly older than I am so I found myself comparing his experiences in the 1970s to my own. During those years, my cultural/historical education was pretty much limited to reading about the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria--or, the American Bicentennial celebration. ...more
Catherine Woodman
Apr 14, 2014 rated it really liked it

This is a dysfunctional family tale, Chinese style.

In the 1970s, when the author was a little boy in the central Chinese city of Xi’an, his grandmother’s death loomed large over his family. The details of her funeral consumed her. A small woman with a domineering personality, she spent years milking her son and grandchildren’s loyalty to get what she wanted, causing PTSD in young Wenguang in the process.

In part, this the story of the family’s attempts to carry out their matriarch’s wishes, a tas
Apr 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, chinese, reviewed
First, thumbs up to the author for his very unusual Cultural Revolution memoir. While many CR stories I've read have been written by those persecuted during that time and/or suffered hardships in the countryside, Huang's memoir lacks that bleakness. For one, he was lucky to have grown up in a city at the tail end of the CR. His family belonged to the "right" class (workers/peasants) and he was able to attend prestigious Fudan University, a huge opportunity and achievement. Although life wasn't a ...more
Mar 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
All'inizio sembra "solo" un racconto, attraverso la lente familiare, del rapporto della società cinese con i suoi retaggi ancestrali e con il regime comunista, ma nei capitoli finali si trasforma in una commovente riflessione sui legami familiari, sull'incombenza della morte e su come le nostre radici danno forma a quello che siamo, assumendo un valore non più solo antropologico ma anche universale.
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Little Red Guard (2012) by Wenguang Huang recounts the the author's life in Communist China from 1973 on. The story is held together by his grandmother's obsession with death and her burial. She is a product of the old ways--having had her feet bound and growing up with the rituals and superstitions of the past. Even though the Party has outlawed extravagant burials and now requires everyone to be cremated, Grandma makes Wenguang's father promise that he will not burn her up when she dies--t ...more
Talbot Hook
Dec 13, 2016 rated it liked it
There are a good many reasons to read this book. As a memoir, it tackles history in an incredibly personalized manner, and it simultaneously has the freedom to delve into myriad psychological and sociological quandaries. It also doesn't shy away from (sometimes brutal) honesty and tragedy, even while it retains a sense of optimism about growth and change. Centered around a casket and an impending burial, the book flits between memories of life and visions of death, all set against the complex ba ...more
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Huang was born in China in 1964 and is a writer, journalist and translator based in Chicago He has written for such publications as The Paris Review, Harper’s, the Christian Science Monitor, the Chicago Tribune and the Asia Literary Review. He also is the English translator of "The Corpse Walker" and "God is Red" by Liao Yiwu. He received a PEN translation award in 2007.
More about Wenguang Huang...