Finally, I'm back to some literary fiction by a woman of color. I apologize if that sounds fetishistic, but seriously, other than vampire books, that's what I like to read best! This coming of age novel takes place in Shanghai during the good old days of the Cultural Revolution and is told by Maple, a poor girl from a suspect family. (Her schoolteacher father made some unfortunate comments about Mao that landed him in jail.) Maple makes friends with Wild Ginger, who is one quarter French and therefore also branded counterrevolutionary. But really, Wild Ginger is a hardcore Maoist whose devotion to the man and the cause first elevate and then destroy her.
Although on the surface this is a love triangle story, what each character wants but can't have is analogous to the desires and disappointments of China's upheaval. I've read a few novels that are about or take place during the Cultural Revolution, but this is the one that most drove home to me that it was really a massive cult with a fuckload of power to destroy people who weren't drinking the Kool-Aid, and eventually to do just as much damage to the people who were.
Plus there's a hilarious/horrible scene where Maple and the third of the triangle are doing it, and the lover insists that she shout out Mao citations the whole time. Quoted below.
"Be careful with that statue," she warned as he turned. Toward the entrance there stood a life-size glow-in-the-dark Mao sculpture, its right hand waving above the head in the air. p.106
"Yes! Do that again Maple, yes!"
"Chairman Mao teaches us…"
"Come on, Evergreen!"
"'People…people of the world, unite and defeat the U.S. aggressors and all their running dogs! People of the world, be courageous, dare to fight, defy difficulties, and advance wave upon waves.'"
"'Keep pushing the cart,' Maple!"
"'Keep pushing the cart until…until we reach the Communist heaven!'"
"Oh Maple, the blind woman is picking the peaches."
"And the blind woman has caught a fat fish—this is a miracle."
"Do the quotations!"
"You armchair revolutionary!"
He groaned, "Oh! Chairman Mao!" p.151