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A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama

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A Hundred Flowers

by Gail Tsukyama

This is the first book I’ve read by author Gail Tsukiyama. But since I enjoy books written about the Asian culture (China, Japan and the Koreas), I expected I would like this book. I wasn’t disappointed, it is now one of my favorites.

The book being set during the highest (or lowest, depending on your point of view) point of Chairman Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” prepared me in advance that this book was not going to be an easy one to read. One of the most disastrous economic and social campaigns in history, this should serve as a warning to current societies who think that “collectivism” is a good idea or that it would work on a large scale. During the years of 1959-61, China actually saw negative economic growth, which resulted in the starvation deaths of over 2 MILLION human beings.

Seeing this tragic and heart-wrenching era through the eyes of a fictional character didn’t make it any less intense, in fact, gave just a glimpse of the horrors and suffering the Chinese were forced to endure. The title “A Hundred Flowers” is a reference to the Hundred Flowers Campaign.

The Hundred Flowers Campaign encouraged its citizens to openly express their opinions of the communist regime. Differing views and solutions to national policy were encouraged based on the famous expression by Communist Party and Chairman Mao Zedong: “The policy of letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend is designed to promote the flourishing of the arts and the progress of science“. After this brief period of liberalization, Mao Zedong abruptly changed course. The crackdown continued through 1957 as an Anti-Rightist Campaign against those who were critical of the regime and its ideology. Those targeted were publicly criticized and condemned to prison labor camps. Mao remarked at the time that he had “enticed the snakes out of their caves.”

There were shocking statements made during this time and they were only illustrated in a more gentle manner by the tales told in A Hundred Flowers. Many of these statements are seeing new life in the U.S. as an “anti-rightist” attitude begins to flourish.

For those unfamiliar with this era in Chinese history, A Hundred Flowers is a fictional yet true to life glimpse into a dark period of history.

If you enjoy the genres of historical fiction, suspense/drama, “coming-of-age”, China and the Chinese culture,  I believe you will really enjoy this book. It’s not a fast-moving, edge-of-your seat story.  Instead, it flows through a short span of time that, while you’re reading it, seems longer in some ways. I’d recommend A Hundred Flowers without reservation.

You can learn more about author Gail Tsukiyama at http://us.macmillan.com/ahundredflowers/GailTsukiyama

“A Hundred Flowers” published with St. Martin’s Press.  Expected Release August 7, 2012

ISBN 0312274815 (ISBN13: 9780312274818)