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Lili

by Annie Wang

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891230,812 (2.93)None
A remarkable first novel that chronicles the emotional and psychological awakening of a tragically disaffected Chinese girl during the turbulent years that led up to the Tiananmen Uprising. As a teenager growing up during the Cultural Revolution, Lili is forced to leave Beijing when her parents, music professors, are relocated to a peasant village to be re-educated. Raped by one of the Communist party leaders in the village, Lili flees to Beijing. Seeking comfort and a sense of community, she becomes a gang member only to be branded by society as a petty criminal and a street hooligan. Whatever youthful enthusiasm Lili may have had is thwarted by the arbitrary oppression of daily life, and she is paralyzed by cynicism, indifference, and, above all, self-loathing. But when she meets an American journalist named Roy and is given the opportunity to see China through his eyes, Lili gradually relinquishes her indifference and self-loathing. She is eventually able to comprehend the magnitude of the changes that are sweeping across her country and to appreciate being a part of something greater than herself. And as the decades of smoldering anger and resentment borne by ordinary people ignite to culminate in a powerful movement, Lili comes startlingly awake to a political and personal understanding she might never have been able to attain otherwise. Written with a bracing rawness and immediacy, Lili is a book of undeniable authenticity. It is both a sharp-eyed witness to historical events and a story whose psychological and emotional veracity is not only irrefutable, but also utterly compelling.… (more)

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The Good and the Bad. Or rather, the Bad and the Good. The Bad: the character of Lili is not three dimensional. She comes off apathetic in a manner that is insincere and underdeveloped. I found it all but impossible to relate to her, to sympathize with her, because her character was absolutely unrealistic in an emotional sense. Another bad: Roy. For a man who loves Chinese culture so much, he sure did say a lot of very uneducated and superficial things. It seemed that the author used Roy to portray both the ‘typical’ uneducated Westerner full of biases and the educated and enlightened Westerner. He was yet another cliche like all of the main characters. And, I found it hard to believe that Roy was unable, in the end, to see the full implication of the protests considering he had participated in them in the United States. The Good: the background. Along with Lili’s superficial and uninteresting development (which, in the end, will leave you unsatisfied not because the ending is without resolution, but because Lili remains undeveloped) is the background of a fascinating and diverse China. There are rising stars, bored and angry youngsters, people with caviar dreams, people who idealize the wrong things, peasants who have yet to come to terms with the end of the Cultural Revolution, a ‘backward’ way of life that is no more pure than the corruption of city life… the list goes on and on. The real value of Lili is in this, in this snapshot of diverse, developing, modernizing China, which culminates with the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. ( )
  morbidromantic | Dec 29, 2008 |
. . . by the time readers come to [the] ending, they have come to know Beijing hooligans, rural Chinese peasants, creative artists, frustrated parents, Communist Chinese officials, and many more. All appear with the vividness and clarity of truth; it is a surprise to realize one is reading fiction. This novel filters everything through the viewpoint and words of the title character, a tough young woman who tells a story of modern China with surprising depth, power, and poetry.
added by sgump | editSoutheast Review of Asian Studies, Constance Fletcher Smith (Dec 1, 2005)
 
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Beijing always launches a crackdown on crime just before the annual convention of the national Communist Party.
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A remarkable first novel that chronicles the emotional and psychological awakening of a tragically disaffected Chinese girl during the turbulent years that led up to the Tiananmen Uprising. As a teenager growing up during the Cultural Revolution, Lili is forced to leave Beijing when her parents, music professors, are relocated to a peasant village to be re-educated. Raped by one of the Communist party leaders in the village, Lili flees to Beijing. Seeking comfort and a sense of community, she becomes a gang member only to be branded by society as a petty criminal and a street hooligan. Whatever youthful enthusiasm Lili may have had is thwarted by the arbitrary oppression of daily life, and she is paralyzed by cynicism, indifference, and, above all, self-loathing. But when she meets an American journalist named Roy and is given the opportunity to see China through his eyes, Lili gradually relinquishes her indifference and self-loathing. She is eventually able to comprehend the magnitude of the changes that are sweeping across her country and to appreciate being a part of something greater than herself. And as the decades of smoldering anger and resentment borne by ordinary people ignite to culminate in a powerful movement, Lili comes startlingly awake to a political and personal understanding she might never have been able to attain otherwise. Written with a bracing rawness and immediacy, Lili is a book of undeniable authenticity. It is both a sharp-eyed witness to historical events and a story whose psychological and emotional veracity is not only irrefutable, but also utterly compelling.

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