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A Tiger's Heart: The Story of a Modern Chinese Woman
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A Tiger's Heart: The Story of a Modern Chinese Woman

3.18  ·  Rating details ·  115 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
"Like a suspense novel, this book is impossible to put down. All readers interested in China, as well as memoir fans (especially of success stories), must read this astonishing title."--Library Journal (Starred Review) “In Aisling Juanjuan Shen’s remarkable and assured memoir, a peasant girl born to illiterate parents and bleak prospects rises to prominence as the first pe ...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published January 1st 2009)
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Victoria Evangelina Belyavskaya

There are billions of them, simple girls, not too beautiful, not too smart, not too ambitious.... ooops, wait, on opposite: they ARE ambitious. The desire for a better life keeps them going and going, through hardship and injustice, through torture and through shame.... everything to get to the Future which will, absolutely, it MUST be, better than today.

Some of them are running away from quite acceptable conditions.

But in the end, it does not matter for as long as they ack
Jul 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shocking and a Great Read!

With brutal honesty and candor, Shen describes her rise from poverty and childhood abuse to the status of a self-assured and successful business woman in China. Interspersed with dark sense of humor and culturally insightful similes, The Tiger’s Heart offers a rare glimpse into the realities of a young woman born into China’s lowest class, but burning with determination to raise to the top. The author refrains from self-pity and candidly shares the difficult choices, no
Apr 16, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia, memoir
This memoir shed some light on rural living in a hamlet that was controlled by corrupt government leaders who dictated every aspect of the rice grower's life. Aisling Juanjuan Shen grew up in such a village in a family living a life of desperation, and treated harshly by her family as she didn't fit in. She became the first person in her village who attended college, becoming a middle school teacher. Disatisfied, she fled to the South of the country, where citizens were now allowed to become ent ...more
Apr 01, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked the beginning to the middle of this story. Aisling Juanjuan Shen described her early life so well!
As a child, she tried so hard to please her mother and father, always failing, and always feeling unloved. Her dad never communicated with her and her mom criticized her endlessly. Aisling's pain and hurt made me cry. Aisling's description of herself, as a young child, working in the rice paddies was one of the best descriptions I have ever read. I thought I had nailed another 5 star
Jul 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll admit I liked this one for personal reasons. The author, a young Chinese woman with a dream of moving up in the world, moves from humble roots through the business world, and all the way to the United States. She was one of two graduates from her high school to move on to a mediocre college, but the job she is assigned after graduation doesn't satisfy her. Despite her friends' and family's belief that she should be happy with her "iron bowl," or steady paycheck and permanent job, she moves ...more
Oct 21, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Would have liked to hear more about her migration to America, and less of her sexual exploits.
Sep 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When reading A Tiger's Heart, it's sometimes hard to believe this story is true. Juanjuan Shen is born to a poor peasant family in rural China. If cold winters with no heat and long days with little food weren't bad enough, Juanjuan is physically beaten and emotionally isolated by her parents. Even her younger sister provides little solace in this dismal environment. When Juanjuan is lucky enough to go to school, she finally finds something that keeps her going. Staying late to finish her homewo ...more
Jan 24, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
On the whole, this story of Juanjuan was very engaging. It was personally an eye opener for me into the lives of rural-urban migrants who are trying to find opportunities to succeed. At the end of the story, I felt that the writer learnt that different people undergo different circumstances throughout their lives, and this would result in them reacting differently to the various situations that they are bound to face. This struck me because as I was reading the story, some of the things that the ...more
Dec 09, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As the book jacket states, this is a brave and honest tale of one woman's struggle to overcome her circumstances and triumph against all odds. But I was disappointed in the narrow view it gave of modern China and the narrow vision of the author. She is very brave, but is so naive and reliant on sex to gain advantage throughout her story. She has some friends, but uses sex, again and again, to stabilize her life. She does not seem to value her friendships, because women (other than her sister and ...more
Feb 13, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a quick read due to the easy sentence stucture throughout, but not too inspiring. I was looking for a story filled with perserverence of character and will, and was disappointed with her commercial ambition and rationalizing about sleeping her way to the top and leaving many men in her wake. Her story does give you insight into the life of a rural Chinese girl's plight to rise above her station, but paints a poor eye on rural Chinese, Chinese middle class factory owners, and most wester ...more
Dec 07, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After just finishing Strength in What Remains about the horrible genocide in Burundi, I picked up this book. In the Prologue the author wrote about how she had to suffer so much, "I've faced enough for a hundred lifetimes". She did have a hard life, but after her prologue I kept thinking, "Convince me". It was remarkable what she did with her life, but, somehow it didn't resonate the same as Strength. Interesting insights on China as it came into the 21st century. I found the writing easy to rea ...more
Jul 30, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This memoir about a girl going from a life of poverty as Chinese peasant to a successful American business-woman seemed like it should have been right up my alley, but I ended up disappointed. I think in the end I didn't find the author sympathetic enough. She always seemed very focused on herself and on earning lots of money, and even when she did succeed she was miserable, shallow, and self-destructive. I'm sure much of that can be attributed to her difficult upbringing but it made for a tough ...more
the author easily has the worst life I have ever read about it.
that was my first exposure to the realities of life for a Chinese peasant girl.
I was continually shocked by the corruption, poverty, and determination read about in the memoir.
I liked the book but thought that the poor language took away from the theme.
Sep 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ms. Shen's style is warm. You feel her pain. It's not just another story of a poor girl doing almost anything to not be poor. Her story reveals internal war women in many countries feel as they attempt to balance intelligence, love, perseverance, and family in a place that won't let them. As one person after another lets her down, you can't help but be happy when reading her happy ending.
Jan 28, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book provided great insight into being a rural woman in modern China. I loved how the author documented her travails like a journalist would. There was a lot of drama in her story, but she didn't focus on all of that; she gave a lot of details and information about her life as a young woman trying to make it to the U.S. Certainly offers a perspective I haven't heard before.
Jul 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this in an evening. It is a really interesting book and I am amazed at her strength. My husband is also from China. I noticed that one comment said that the writer seemed to only care about money, but I understand that coming from a life of poverty, all you want to do is get out and better yourself. This writer has beaten tremendous odds. I admire her fortitude.
Diane C.
Oct 23, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The harrowing story of a smart, ambitious young girl from the Chinese back country. Despite China's progress in the large cities, there is still a LONG way to go.

Very interesting, a compelling insider's look at Chinese business world, society, culture and how backwardly women are still treated.

Aug 26, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book en route to my first trip to China. While I appreciated what I learned about the Chinese culture and the struggles of growing up in the country, the book was largely disappointing. The writing was not very compelling, and I was very troubled by the moral choices of the author.
Jan 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china, memoir
An amazing story about a young Chinese woman who wanted to escape from rural China. I was surprised that she told so much about her personal life. It took a lot of nerve to confess so much but she persevered.
Missie Kay
Sep 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Often sad and painful, full of bad choices from someone who never had a mother or father to speak of. Yet, Shen's story is a good one to hear, simply because it helps the reader understand modern China a bit more.
Well, I know I should have learned a lot about the plight of modern women in industrialized China, and I know I should be remarking on the sweeping changes in that country, and I know I should be amazed at Shen's struggles. But 'eh. It all kind of seemed a little "same shit, different day" to me.
Sep 10, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
By a Wellesley alumna!
Jun 30, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I finished it only because I wanted to see how it ended. I wouldn't recommend this book.
Jul 29, 2009 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
So far, so good! A brave memoir from a good friend. Her courage and ambition are truly the book & the way she currently lives her life. Go get it!!
May 13, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
great book about overcoming personal struggles when failure hits us time and time again. Very good for women dealing with self esteem problems related to fathers, etc.
Aug 24, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brutally honest memoir of a Chinese immigrant. Interesting read.
Catherine Dover Stetson
A fascinating memoir. It reminded me of Mao's Last Dancer.
Life in China is hard.
Oct 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club

Very quick, interesting memoir.
Feb 17, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This story might be realistic. If it is, it doesn't provide much hope for the uneducated, poverty-stricken people in the world. That's pretty much why I didn't care for the story.
Jesslyn Yep
Something my mum recommended it to me. Narrates the true story of a female in China.
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I was born to illiterate peasants in a tiny rice-farming hamlet in China's Yangtze Delta in 1974. Pronounced useless by my parents because I wasn't good at planting rice, I became the first person from my village ever to attend college. After graduating from a teachers' college, I was assigned by the government to a remote and low-paying teaching job that I was expected to hold for the rest of my ...more
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