Bibliographic Information: Yen Mah, Adeline (1999), Chinese Cinderella, Dell Laurel-Leaf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a Division of Random House, Inc., 197 pp.
Awards. ALA Best Book for Young Adults,
Synopsis: The book is the memoir of a girl’s painful coming-of-age story in a wealthy Chinese family during the 1940s. Born the fifth child to an affluent Chinese family Adeline Yen Mah’s life begins tragically. Adeline’s mother died shortly after her birth due to complications brought on by delivery, and in the Chinese culture this marks her as cursed or “bad luck.” This situation is compounded by her father’s new marriage to a lady who has little affection for her husband’s five children. She displays antagonism and distrust towards all of the children, particularly Adeline, while favoring her own young son and daughter born after the marriage. The book outlines Adeline’s struggle to find a place where she feels she belongs. Adeline immerses herself in striving for academic achievement in the hope of winning her family's favor, but also for its own rewards because she finds pleasure in words and scholarly success.
Evaluative statement: First, I found this to be a stirring testimony to the strength of the human character and the power of education. Second, few children in the United States can fully understand what it means to go without, particularly the love of parents. Even when there isn’t much money to go around, most children in the United States still have family that do the best they can to make sure their children know they are loved and an important part of the family. Families offer us acceptance and a place to belong, help and guidance, things Adeline did not have with her own family. I believe that teens, with their passionate convictions and strong sense of fair play, will be wrapped up in the gross injustice of Adeline Yen Mah’s story.
Possible classroom uses for the book: Literary Circles.
Appropriate age range: Middle School, Grades 5-8.
My Personal Reaction: I encourage parents to pick up a copy of this book for their children, especially their daughters. It will help children better understand the value of what they have and how to appreciate it so much more.