Published in 1999, Chinese Cinderella is a beautifully written memoir by Adeline Yen Mah. My eleven-year-old daughter read this book first, then passed it on to some friends, and because I sometimes read literature for young adults, told me I had to read it next. The book describes Adeline's early experiences growing up in China during World War II, and is a revised version of part of her autobiography, Falling Leaves.
Poor Adeline! Her mother died soon after giving birth to her, and the family shuns her and regards her as bad luck. After her father remarries, she receives constant abuse from her stepmother “Niang” (the Chinese word for mother) and siblings. Although she's an outstanding student at school, at home she's made to feel as if she doesn't exist, at the complete mercy of a cold, despicable stepmother. She's forced to become independent at a very young age, walking to school and back by herself in the worst weather. Her father's guilty of neglecting her, and allowing his second wife to be cruel and unjustly punitive towards her.
With strong scholastic ability and intelligence, and the support of one person in her family who believes in her, Aunt Baba, Adeline manages to do well academically. In spite of a very difficult upbringing, she's able to triumph over her past and eventually attends medical school. Chinese Cinderella lives up to it's name, and although it's shockingly sad, it's also a book about hope and the resiliency of the human spirit, about reaching dreams in spite of the worst possible circumstances. I'd like to read Adeline Yen Mah's full autobiography, Falling Leaves, an international bestseller published in 1997.