Book of the Week

stacey_mbMarch 21, 2013

MaoâÂÂs last dancer by Li Cunxin.

This is a gripping, fascinating autobiography of a man who as a child was selected to train as a ballet dancer in Communist China and who later defected to the U.S.

I will only describe some of this heartening rags-to-riches story, in order to avoid spoilers! The author describes his impoverished childhood in a small village in China. At age 11, he was chosen pretty well at random by Madam MaoâÂÂs cultural delegates to leave his family and study ballet in Beijing. He was to eventually become known as one of the greatest ballet dancers in the world, meeting Barbara Bush and other notable individuals during his career. In 1979, he arrived in Texas as part of a cultural exchange, wary of class enemies and prepared to âÂÂserve glorious communism.â His political opinions evolved and an exciting series of events describe how he defected to the U.S. However, at one point, he is lured into the Chinese embassy, and now that he is no longer on U.S. soil, the Chinese government is holding him captive and trying to force him to return to China. ...but the story doesn't end there!

A great read, written for a general audience, not only for lovers of ballet. From a book review, âÂÂA moving, true story of family love and a boyâÂÂs great courage on his journey from terrible poverty to the world stage - one of the books of the year.âÂÂ

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There is a movie about this too. I watched it several years ago on Netflix and it was really good.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 6:59PM
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That sounds really good, thanks for the heads up.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 9:02PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

FYI...Kindle has it for less than $5.00. Sounds like a good one.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 9:11PM
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I started to watch the movie after I read the book, Jewels, but found that it didn't match the movie I had in my head while reading, so didn't finish LOL! I really will have to give the film another try. My sisters-in-law read the book and also liked the movie. Sometimes I wonder what is more satisfying - seeing a movie first, then reading the book, or the other way around.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 9:30PM
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Rhizo, Less than $5.00 is a great price for this book!

It came as a surprise to me, that at the end of the book the author mentioned that his good friend from ballet school had joined the ballet company in my own city, that being the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. His friend, whose photo is shown in the book together with the author in New York in 1979, was named Zhang Weiqiang but changed it to Johnny W. Chang. He is originally from Shanghai, China and didn't have to defect, but moved to Canada under a new Chinese open door policy. He joined the RWB as Principal Dancer in 1992 and became Ballet Master in 2002, a position he currently holds.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 11:26PM
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Thank you for posting the book of the week. I am enjoying your posts. I haven't read this one yet, and I will add it to my list.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 6:56AM
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Thanks. I love book recommendations and this sounds like a winner.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 11:25AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

We watched the movie last night after a bit of convincing that this was more of a human drama than a "ballet " movie, lol. Robert's interest never flagged. I'll bet that the book is better than the movie.....just a speculation. It was an enjoyable film.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 8:46PM
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Rhizo_1, I'm happy that you and Robert enjoyed the movie. I'm pretty sure the book would be better than the movie, hard to include all that information in a movie 90 minutes or 2 hours long. I plan to watch it though to see how the film makers show the people and events in the book.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 11:38AM
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Stacey, thank you for the post. I purchased the Kindle version and ordered the movie on Netflix. Having just returned from China, the storyline interests me.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 1:53PM
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