Spider Eaters: A Memoir

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University of California Press, Mar 1, 2013 - Literary Criticism - 320 pages
Spider Eaters is at once a moving personal story, a fascinating family history, and a unique chronicle of political upheaval told by a Chinese woman who came of age during the turbulent years of the Cultural Revolution. With stunning honesty and a lively, sly humor, Rae Yang records her life from her early years as the daughter of Chinese diplomats in Switzerland, to her girlhood at an elite middle school in Beijing, to her adolescent experience as a Red Guard and later as a laborer on a pig farm in the remote northern wilderness. She tells of her eventual disillusionment with the Maoist revolution, how remorse and despair nearly drove her to suicide, and how she struggled to make sense of conflicting events that often blurred the line between victim and victimizer, aristocrat and peasant, communist and counter-revolutionary. Moving gracefully between past and present, dream and reality, the author artfully conveys the vast complexity of life in China as well as the richness, confusion, and magic of her own inner life and struggle.

Much of the power of the narrative derives from Yang's multi-generational, cross-class perspective. She invokes the myths, legends, folklore, and local customs that surrounded her and brings to life the many people who were instrumental in her life: her nanny, a poor woman who raised her from a baby and whose character is conveyed through the bedtime tales she spins; her father; and her beloved grandmother, who died as a result of the political persecution she suffered.

Spanning the years from 1950 to 1980, Rae Yang's story is evocative, complex, and told with striking candor. It is one of the most immediate and engaging narratives of life in post-1949 China.
 

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SPIDER EATERS: A Memoir

User Review  - Kirkus

Moving, poetic, and honest, this is one of the best memoirs yet published of the Cultural Revolution in China. Yang (East Asian Studies/Dickinson Coll.) was born in 1950; her parents, both professors ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Scapegoats - LibraryThing

Great memoir! Rae Yang was a teenager at Beijing's most elite high school at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution in China. She is of the right age and political background to be on its opening ... Read full review

Contents

1 A Strange Gift from the Pig Farm
1
2 Old Monkey Monster
8
3 Nainais Story Turned into a Nightmare
16
4 Nainai Failed Her Ancestors
24
5 Why Did Father Join the Revolution?
31
6 Second Uncle Was a Paper Tiger
38
7 The Chinese CIA
50
8 When Famine Hit
58
14 Red Guards Had No Sex
130
15 Semitransparent Nights
146
16 The Hero Once Departed Will Never Come Back
159
17 In a Village Think Feel and Be a Peasant
174
18 The Tree May Wish to Stand Still but the Wind Will Not Subside
188
Nainais Last Story
200
20 Remorse
217
21 Friends and Others
233

9 A Vicious Girl
66
10 Auntys Name Was Chastity
74
11 Beijing 101 Middle School
87
12 The Hero in My Dreams
101
13 At the Center of the Storm
115
22 My First Love a Big Mistake?
245
23 What Have I Lost? What Have I Gained?
261
24 Epilogue
274
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About the author (2013)

Rae Yang is Professor of East Asian Studies at Dickinson College.

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