Given my love of memoir, I knew that I had to find one for Read Harder’s first task, a YA nonfiction book. It took a while to find a memoir that was YA, but it was a worthwhile effort. Chinese Cinderella is about a little girl who pretty much lived out Cinderella’s story with a few little modifications. There was definitely an evil step-mother and multiple siblings who did terrible things, even the ones who loved her. There are quite a few horrible moments that go beyond the well intended struggles of complex family structures.
Born in 1937, Mah was a child through the build up and aftermath of World War II. Beyond the Cinderella aspect of her story, she also provides insight into what was happening in China during that time. In the US, we’re taught about Europe and Japan, but not much about China. What was going on? Was it business as usual? Definitely not. With her life already in turmoil because of her step-mother and siblings, Mah had enough problems without the impending war.
My favorite thing about this particular story is the main difference between Cinderella and Adeline Yen Mah. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I love her “rescue” so much more. There is also a version of her story that is written for older readers and a play, both titled Falling Leaves
That said, Mah has also written a few novels that I look forward to reading one day too. One serves as a sort of sequel to this one. Chinese Cinderella is a good book for anyone interested in memoir, women’s memoir, fairy tales or their truer renditions, stories from China, women writers, or Read Harder tasks 1, 2 or 20. I could definitely go on more about this book, but I know I’d get into spoilers if I did. Just know that though this is a true and therefore more heart wrenching version of Cinderella through the middle, the end is better.