Book Review – Beijing Bastard by Val Wang

beijing bastard

Synopsis from back book cover:

A humorous and moving coming-of-age story that brings a unique, not-quite-outsider’s perspective to China’s shift from ancient empire to modern superpower

Raised in a strict Chinese-American household in the suburbs, Val Wang dutifully got good grades, took piano lessons, and performed in a Chinese dance troupe—until she shaved her head and became a leftist, the stuff of many teenage rebellions. But Val’s true mutiny was when she moved to China, the land her parents had fled before the Communist takeover in 1949.

Val arrives in Beijing in 1998 expecting to find freedom but instead lives in the old city with her traditional relatives, who wake her at dawn with the sound of a state-run television program playing next to her cot, make a running joke of how much she eats, and monitor her every move. But outside, she soon discovers a city rebelling against its roots just as she is, struggling too to find a new, modern identity. Rickshaws make way for taxicabs, skyscrapers replace hutong courtyard houses, and Beijing prepares to make its debut on the world stage with the 2008 Olympics. And in the gritty outskirts of the city where she moves, a thriving avant-garde subculture is making art out of the chaos. Val plunges into the city’s dizzying culture and nightlife and begins shooting a documentary, about a Peking Opera family who is witnessing the death of their traditional art.

Brilliantly observed and winningly told, Beijing Bastard is a compelling story of a young woman finding her place in the world and of China, as its ancient past gives way to a dazzling but uncertain future.

My Review:

The book is very unorganized, making it a little hard to follow. One second she would be talking about the past, then a second later she is talking about the present or couple years later then back to the past. Most of the time, the readers would have no idea what she is trying to say or what the point is by telling us this story.

The memoir starts with Val graduates from college and wants to explore her true identity. She is inspired by the documentary Beijing Bastard, so she moves to China where her family had immigrated or escaped from in attempt to make her own documentary. However, BOYS usually get in the way, (Zhang Yuan, Xiao Ding, Max, Anthony, and Peking Opera Brother Zhang)she will just give up. It felt like she is just looking for an easy way out or the perfect topic to drop in her hands.

1 out of 5 stars

Received a free copy through LibraryThing Early Reviewers

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