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Letters in the Jade Dragon Box

It's 1976, Chen Wen-shan is 15 years old. She lives in Hong Kong with her great uncle. She lived on mainland China with her mother and grandfather until she was 5, but she doesn't really remember any of that. She does have a few vague nightmares that she figures are from about that time. She's been raised by her uncle, but she doesn't really feel as though she knows him, he's kind of aloof and she doesn't ask a lot of questions, mostly because he doesn't answer them to her satisfaction. Wen-shan and her uncle live fairly normal lives in Hong Kong, there is some western influence, things like Corn Flakes and rock and roll music, but her uncle doesn't really approve of them. Their lives are normal until the day the message comes. It comes by messenger and it's a rare enough thing that it causes quite a stir with their nosy neighbors. Wen-shan and her Uncle are invited to visit with a well-respected English man who says he has a surprise for them, and her uncle feels he's important enough for Wen-shan to miss part of a school day to visit him. The surprise is a box with a beautiful Jade dragon decorating the top. The best part about the box is what it contains inside, her grandfather's beautiful paintings and letters from Wen-shan's mother herself. Through these letters Wen-shan comes to know her mother and understand the reasons that she was sent away. I really enjoyed the story of this book, it's loosely based on a true story. I loved the letters from Wen-shan's mother. They show such a different outlook on the Chinese government than any I've ever seen before. I was grateful to have been able to read this book and learn about Chairman Mao and some of the atrocities that he forced others to live through. Though sad in some parts, I thought it was a good learning experience and I highly recommend this book!

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