Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine

November 25th, 2007 by Brian Leave a reply »

Imagine George W. Bush as president (shouldn’t be too tough).

Now imagine him putting his face on giant posters everywhere you walk.

Now imagine people being pulled from their daily jobs and schoolwork to instead recite the teachings of George W. He then institutes a youth program that rewards kids for selling out their teachers, friends, and family that don’t quite agree with how life is going (or the spies just don’t like the people).

Thankfully we have a president and not Chairman Mao:

Not a Fan

The Revolutionary

  1. Revolution is Not a Dinner Party is a stellar debut by this author. Ying Chang Compestine has written cookbooks (and is the spokesperson for Nestle Maggi) and a couple of children’s books, but this is her debut in a novel. She writes most of this novel from her own childhood in China, which is scary once you’ve read the book.
  2. This novel fits perfectly in any Anne Frank/WWII unit of study, even though the Cultural Revolution in China happened after World War II. You still have youth squads (the Red Guard and the Young Pioneers) busting up people who stand in their way and disagree with the dictator.
  3. Students will relate to her mother-daughter struggle as well as her love for her dad, but the thing that kept me reading was the suspense of who was going to get dragged off next or if the main character’s family would be overheard by their next door neighbor, Comrade Li. Her dad is an awesome character who, when demoted from surgeon to janitor, still operates on his enemy’s (Comrade Li) friends after hours because he is so skilled. What’s really cool is that her dad did that in real life, too.

The Distant

  1. She sets up the peaceful life before the giant upheaval for the first 20 pages. If a student were to pick this up on their own, they might not get what life is like because it is not the US. Once the Comrade moves in, though, stuff starts heating up and I finished the book in one and a half days of not-putting-it-down.

This is a very valuable book that may get overlooked because of its cover and, frankly, some prejudices that we still have about China. I am booktalking this on Monday and hopefully it stirs up some circulations because the book, society challenging and historical as it is, is worth the effort.


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