Mao's Last Dancer

1306 words 6 pages
“Despite our hardships, there were also joys in our childhood”. Explore the ways in which Li’s childhood was both one of great deprivations and one of great riches.

The novel, “Mao’s Last Dancer”, was written by Li Cunxin. It tells his riveting tale of growing up in a poor family of six boys, living in a village in China under Mao’s reign. It goes on to share his eventual defection to the United States as an artistic dancer. His childhood was filled with both hardships and joys. But both helped him to grow as a resilient person to achieve once-thought impossible goals.

In Li’s commune, the housing was not up to today’s standard. They lived in abject poverty. There was barely any available space in the house to accommodate everyone.
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As a result, every night, food was passed from plate to plate. Li’s parents argued which one of them should get the food. His niang said that Li’s dia deserved the best food because he was their “breadwinner”. But they both thought that it was essential to feed their children well. They “always ate slowly to allow us more food.” Hunger was always a part of the Li family’s lives. They only had a limited supply of to sustain them throughout the day. But this was only one of the various hardships that the Li family had to endure.

Despite all the hardships in Li’s life, he also had many joys. One that he missed dearly while at dance school was the freedom that he was able to enjoy as a child. He had experienced many great memories of excitement. He especially loved looking for crickets. “Night or day I would follow the crickets’ singing until I caught one, but we had to take care because we often looked in dangerous areas where there might be snakes.” Li had a lot of freedom in searching for crickets. He was allowed to look for crickets at night while knowing that snakes were around. That would be unheard of today! Li’s parents were not worried whereas today we would have probably already called the police. He loved spending his free time looking for crickets. It was one of his hobbies. Li was very thankful to his parents for giving him such freedoms to enjoy his deprived life.

Li’s childhood lacked the attention of medical care. They had to put up with the pain.