The Dragon's Village by Yuan-Tsun Chen, global reading category
Ling Ling lives a life of privilege in China. She lives with her aunt and uncle, who throw parties for the wealthy and powerful set. All around them, they hear that the good life is coming to an end for people like them, that Communism is sweeping the country, and that things will never be the same.
Ling Ling gets swept up into the excitement. When a friend from school asks if she can hide from the police for the night, she says yes, and suddenly she's questioning her upbringing and beliefs. Her aunt flees to Hong Kong, but her uncle tries to stay put a little longer. Soon he must leave too, and Ling Ling decides to stay and see what will become of this new nation.
She joins a group of land reform workers, whose job is to go out into the country, examine the land deeds of the landlords, and redistribute the land. Landlords will lose their wealth and status, and the peasants will be empowered.
Except that things aren't quite that simple. Reading this book, I have the benefit of hindsight. I could tell how naive Ling Ling is, how little she really knows of farming or of poverty, how little she understands human nature. All too soon, she finds that things are much more complicated than she imagines. There are tragedies along with occasional triumphs. Ling Ling learns more about herself than she imagined, and finds that she is capable of being independent.
I really enjoyed this book. I was anticipating a tragic end, but I was pleased to see that that wasn't the case, at least not completely. I found myself wanting to read more, to see what happens to the villagers Ling Ling meets and befriends. The title calls this an 'autobiographical novel', and I would love to know more about the author. The only notes in my edition say that the author was also a land reform worker, and I really want to know how much of her experiences are reflected in the book. I would recommend this to anyone who could find a copy. I found it very enlightening and a good story besides.