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Red Fire: Growing Up During the Chinese Cultural Revolution

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  29 ratings  ·  23 reviews
In August 1966, a 14-year-old boy in Beijing is thrust into violence and chaos as the Cultural Revolution begins to blaze across China. Fifty years later, Red Fire, Growing Up During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, offers the first intimate account from someone who lived through these events and survived. What was the Cultural Revolution like as seen through the eyes of ...more
ebook, 334 pages
Published January 27th 2017 by Avant Press
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Average rating 3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  29 ratings  ·  23 reviews

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Sherwood Smith
When I was growing up, China as well as the USSR were big blank blobs on the world map, referred to--if at all--as "behind the Iron Curtain." Communists--enemies--wholesale judgment, their history pretty much blank after the October Revolution for Russia, and Mao's takeover in the forties. (As of course they regarded the West.)

I only bumped up against the horrors of the Cultural Revolution when a teacher bitterly reviled my fellow teenagers during a period of campus unrest, saying we were the eq
Jessica Creason
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley-books
I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading this book. Truthfully, I didn't know much about the Chinese Cultural Revolution (CCR), going into it. I had definately heard the name Chairman Mao, but my knowledge from past history lessons failed me, and I didn't know much more than he was a bad guy (I know, that's sad).

The first chapter of the book, in which the author starts to explain the violence and humiliation that his family experienced started to give me an idea of what to expect, tho
Alex Morra
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Red Fire is a first person account of what it was like to grow up in the Cultural Revolution. The bulk of this book takes place in 1966 when the author is between thirteen and fourteen, though from time to time, he evokes memories and an adult perspective from more current discussions with his family, though it also details his years of exile--aka his re-education, where he lived in a cave in an impoverished town working as a migrant farmer.

The age of the child Wei Yang Chao is the same age as A
Anni Welborne
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Red Fire is the first-hand account of a teen boy growing up during the Cultural Revolution in China in the 1960s. The story is at times confusing (some flashbacks, unfamiliar names, extremely difficult philosophical content, and some graphic violence to grapple with), but it’s worth the effort. The author vividly writes of first his fervor for the Revolution, but then he begins to question what he is seeing and experiencing. Watching his own parents be struggled against appears to be the final s ...more
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ever wondered what it would be like to be a witness to history, to watch these watershed moments take place in front of your eyes? From what I’ve read, the answer is – terrifying. Wei Yang Chao was a witness to one of the biggest revolutions in history, especially if you go by the sheer number of people involved. He attended one rally that included over a million people, and the prospect of violence at every turn. He was lucky to survive.

This book  is a first-hand account of the Cultural Revolut
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies, history
What is it like in the eye of a storm? What happens when you get sucked into that storm? This book gives you that view of the Cultural Revolution. Wei Yang Chao was there for the beginning. He helped chronicle it as a school reporter. He was part of it as a Red Guard. Then he saw it turn ugly. Eventually, he felt it’s fury as it engulfed him and his family.
This book is an incredibly hard book to read; there is so much violence and heartbreak. But it isn’t just a memoir. He takes the time to e
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gripping Story

This account of the terrible and life-changing years if the Cultural Revolution in China is told with earnest and heartbreaking honesty by the author who lived through this historic time. It is hard for me to imagine how he and millions of others withstood such pain, loss and humiliation to enlarge relatively healthy and able to keep on living. My only regret about this book is that it was too short. I would have enjoyed knowing more about the years of readjustment after the ordeal
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the American Revolution is central to the Fourth of July, America also seemed to encounter a revolutionary temperament in 1968. We weren't alone; revolution also seemed to be in the air in Europe. Even the counterculture symbol The Beatles would record their first politically explicit song, "Revolution." Yet you've got to wonder how much support there is for your revolution when John Lennon writes, "But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao/You ain't going to make it with anyone anyh ...more
Schuyler Wallace
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it

At fourteen, a boy is caught up in the 1966 Cultural Revolution created by Chairman Mao to enforce the leader’s vision of Chinese ideology. Huge bands of children and young adults, known as The Red Guard, were persuaded to accept this concept and became involved in humiliating citizens accused of being counterrevolutionaries, school teachers of spreading anti-Mao propaganda, and any individual accused of individual thought or emotion. “Red Fire” is Wei Yang Chao’s memoir of his awakening after e
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An eye opening, first hand account of the Chinese Cultural Revolution as told by Wei Yang who was 14 at the start. At first, he is excited at Chairman Mao's policy's and enthusiastically participates. But as time goes on his position changes as he witnesses the beatings and shame inflicted on his parents (struggle sessions) for being "landowners." Eventually his family is forced from their home to the country for "re-habilitation." Wei however, is sent to live in a cave, and struggles to survive ...more
Richard Kirkner
Important book for the US because it's a memoir of one man's experience in Mao's cultural revolution. The writer displays the reporter's eye for detail and chronology, and digs below the surface of just describing events (his family's struggle session, torture and humiliation of school and university officials) to enumerate the emotional and spiritual toll these acts took on their victims and witnesses—and to describe the perpetrators' arrogance and hubris. I'd expected to learn more about how t ...more
Brandon Bierley
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a book I read quickly - I couldn't put it down. The author's story of growing up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution grants readers a personal view from inside the storm. Too often large cultural movements are told from a distant perspective, full of statistics and devoid of humanity. This is a great addition to a reading list for anyone interested in modern Chinese history.

As others have stated, the writing style is a little basic. Compared to the horror conveyed by a book like The
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Growing up during the heart of the Cultural Revolution, Wei Yang struggles to identify what is right and what is wrong. Brainwashed in school to blindly worship Chairman Mao, he is all for the revolution, but when his own parents become targets accused of collecting rent and spying for the U.S., Wei Yang starts to realize the rampant violence may not be necessary.
Good story, being able to see what it was like growing up during such a tumultuous time in Chinese history, however the writing was
Barbara Lovejoy
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh my!!! I have read other books about the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and this one, like the others, caused me so much anguish and pain. Yet, it also taught so much about the strength of the human spirit to endure and overcome...and then flourish.
Robert King
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
It feels so authentic as if you were right in the middle of the events. This is a very good history book. I enjoyed a lot!
Dec 02, 2017 marked it as abandoned
I'm abandoning this book. I KNOW the Chinese Cultural Revolution wasn't this dull!
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thanks to net galley for the advance reader copy.
Jul 17, 2018 rated it liked it
In view of the terrible and heart-breaking events related here, I felt curiously disengaged form the author’s experiences. It may be that I have just read too many memoirs of the Cultural Revolution and this one added little to my knowledge and understanding. The author writes openly and honestly, but I found his style a little dry at times. A welcome addition, however, to the literature of this dreadful era in Chinese history.
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Such a horrible way to have had to live life and to watch people that you know getting murdered. The book was very dry and confusing and sometimes you felt like the author was distancing himself from the writing, which is understandable based on what this family went through. I struggled to get through this book. It is a good book if you like history and can get through a dry book.

Received this book from NetGalley for my honest review.
Incredible insight into what it would be like to grow up in China during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Wei Yang Chao tells what it was like to experience the chaos that comes with revolution. He develops a clear, honest portrayal of public humiliation, how education played a part in the revolution and what it was like to watch and be apart of history.
Dick Whittington
Jul 23, 2017 rated it did not like it
Gave up at half way point. Too dry and boring, complicated and confusing. Have to say I lost interest long before quitting.
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting follow up for me, after reading Wolf Totem.

Seeing this true story of a family battered before the children were sent to the countryside for re-education puts the tale of Wolf Totem in a totally new frame for me.

Recommended for those who want to know what happened IN China before Nixon went to meet Chairman Mao.
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