I was born in Beijing in 1985, and lived there through 7th grade. Growing up in the 90's I often heard my elders refer to the "Three Years of Natural Disaster" as a period of hardship - all my family resided in Beijing and Shanghai, and they were deprived of food -but they were not starved (My grandma used to talk about buying crumbs of bread and saving the one egg she was able to find for my mother). My grandparents went through the labor reform camps and my parents were left at home to be looked after by good hearted neighbors and relatives. Not a easy life by any means, but no one in my family died from this "Three Years of Natural Disaster."
NEVER have I heard about cannibalism, mass starvation and the wiping out of entire families. Why? Because, I now realize, that all the people who died were people who lived in the poorest areas of the country, with no power to ask for anything. 45 million people died brutal, torturous deaths. There were villages where so many people died, that they had to quarantine the entire area so that news didn't get out. There was NO WAY for people who lived in the major cities to know the extent of suffering the rest of China went through. But what shocked me even more is that this was never a NATURAL disaster...there was nothing natural about any of it. In fact, the entire tragedy was brought on by a chain reaction composed of greed, oppression and cowardice. Politics, bureaucracy, and a power hungry totalitarian ruler were what caused this famine.
Okay, I don't want to go into much detail here because I am getting carried away...
This book is life changing for me, as a child of the new-generation China. I grew up in a westernized and prosperous Beijing, and even China from the 1970's was far removed from me. There is an assumption that my generation doesn't really care about what happened before, because we got in made - we're the first generation to fully experience the benefits and wealth brought on by Deng Xiaoping's policy to open up to the west. I had Coca-cola, I had Mcdonald's. I was an only child, and so were all my classmates, and we were all spoiled to bits. Perhaps it is because of our removal from that history of suffering that they think it is a good opportunity to bury the past, starting from us.
This book pulled back the curtains and revealed to me this gaping hole in my history book. It is like finding out my mother is a serial killer. I could not sleep for days, and cried through every page. But I know that as a Chinese person, I have a responsibility to read this book. To not read it would be like allowing this enormous lie to keep festering in me. I wish that every Chinese person could read this and know the truth. Too bad it is banned in China, and I doubt it would ever see the light of day.
I am not a political person, but I can't stand the thought of millions dying for no reason. They did die for no reason, though - a genocide on this scale is beyond all reason/justification - but the least we could do now is to KNOW about it. These were people who spoke my language, and celebrated the same holidays, and knew the same folklores. It just hits me so hard - I never thought there could be this deliberate, government induced mass extinction in the recent history of China, covered up so well. I thought I was fortunate to be born in a country that has never invaded anyone or started any wars. Turned out it was too busy killing off its own people.
Anyway, if you are like me - if you grew up in China and went to school there...I think you owe it to yourself to read this book. We've been lied to, we've been treated as unthinking, unfeeling fools with no conscience.... Don't let them do that to you anymore. If you have an opportunity to get this book, get it and read it. We have a right to know, and to lament for our own.
- Paperback: 656 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Press; 1 edition (2 January 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780241956984
- ISBN-13: 978-0241956984
- ASIN: 0241956986
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 458 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 133,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)