Today I listened to this story’s nine year old narrator tell of her confusion as to why the friendly comrade Li that took over her father’s office and did magic tricks for her when he came over to trade the family’s limited food for origami turns sour. The report of revolutionists coming into homes and classifying anyone with nice stuff as ‘bourgeoisie sympathizers’ brought me to my knees this afternoon. The child-like yet deeply disconcerting faith expressed in America’s promise of freedom made me think of how we treated/treat those who come looking for somewhere that an eight-year- olds complaints don’t lead to a family’s demise.
My heart broke and I wished I could cry, but all I can say is be grateful and don’t assume that mindset can’t happen here. Young people eager for escape were caught and forced into submission- forced to turn against family and friends- quickly transformed into someone as cruel as the ones they were trying to avoid.
Yesterday I finished listening to the The Lions of Little Rock which had a very similar feel to it. A young narrator tells of her older sister being sent away to live with an aunt the year that the high schools closed in an effort to prevent racial integration. She talks about seeing someone she knew egg a house and then hearing the next day that her maid’s son was arrested for the crime that he couldn’t have committed.
The moral grays that the children in these stories face are intriguing. Disobeying parents in an effort to do what’s right; putting people in danger on the basis of principle. Maintaining a friendship regardless of whether it causes deadly disconsent among enemies.
The issues are intriguing and challenging and I cannot say how I would respond but they are questions worth wrestling with. Both books are highly recommended.
*Note- I downloaded both as audio e-books from the Ohio Ebook Project