If I were in charge of high school curriculum, Under Red Skies: Three Generations of Life, Loss, and Hope in China would be required reading in World History classes. (Do any high schools teach World History?)
This little (almost 300 short pages) book is an excellent first-person account of the life of a young girl, born in 1989, in China, and her family's familial and cultural practices, and their experiences with restrictions on personal liberties the communist government places on its citizens.
Consider abortion and the Chinese birth rate.
Implemented in 1979 to slow population growth, the single-child policy was abandoned in 2015 after 40 million female babies were aborted or murdered. Now China is a society with an inadequate supply of workers to fill jobs, stemming from an insufficient number of females (killed off) to marry and produce children in a nation with a rapidly aging population.
(A 2015 article in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences estimated that next year, China will have 24 million more men than women of marriageable age which translates into kidnapping, human trafficking, other crimes, and relocations to other countries by males searching for mates. Come to the U.S. capital, mates!)
The practice of terminating pregnancies up to eight months of gestation during the one-child rule is wrenching. Women had to submit to monthly door-to-door checks to make sure they were menstruating and were not pregnant (!).
Ms. Kan writes of neighbors forced to undergo abortions.
If mothers were able to hide their pregnancies beyond the seventh month, the government allowed the baby to be born. Thus, Ms. Kan's parents, who already had a son, had a daughter, the author.
For readers who know little about China, this fascinating contemporary history provides enlightenment and makes me sympathize with the Falun Gongers I see around town and in parades.
After Falun Gong membership increased substantially, the Chinese government declared it to be a cult in 1999 and forbid anyone from following the group and/or keeping its literature which a member of Ms. Kan's family did.
Authorities went house-to-house to seek and destroy anything connected to Falun Gong. Fortunately, Ms. Kan's uncle (I think he was) was not killed for his spiritual practices, but thousands were, including persons used for organ transplants. (See the website.)
The author experiences all the ups, downs, and heartbreaks of a young person when she doesn't make minimum test scores to enter prestigious schools or when boys she likes do not return the romantic favor, much like what happens in the U.S. and around the world! ("Love" must be the same everywhere.)
I am certain that one of the reasons I picked the book up from the new non-fiction titles at the library (in addition to its smart cover), was having recently listened to the CD of the autobiography of the Chinese pianist, Lang Lang, Journey of a Thousand Miles (no longer available for $164, newer copy, or $64, library copy, at Amazon).
Under Red Skies is equally as impressive, if not more so, since Ms. Kan did not have a parent as driven and possessed as Lang Lang's father who worked feverishly to ensure his son would become the ultimate pianist. (He has.)
Ms. Kan's mother also wanted the best for her children (Ms. Kan's father has a minor role in the book), and she ignored traditional dogmas to mind in-laws. Rather, she moved her family from the country to the city so her children could attend better schools (with their dad along for the ride), a wild scene played out in the front of eavesdropping neighbors who had a wonderful time listening to the screaming and bitter fight.
Another memorable scene was Ms. Kan's outing with a friend to an English bar when they ordered cocktails. You will smile and maybe, laugh out loud.
For the next edition, may I suggest the addition of a simple map of China showing Ms. Kan's route from the country to the city and Beijing, and a character list with their roles (Chunting, Laolao, Laoye, friend, aunt, uncle, cousin, etc.).
Also, a glossary of the italicized Chinese words (e.g. zao lian, laobaixing, etc.) in case other readers, like me, forget their meanings which I belatedly discovered in the index while writing this review.
You don't have to be young to adopt Ms. Kan's persuasive outlook to keep on trying and never give up.
It helps an American better understand the Hong Kong unrest and the freedoms we have and take for granted, freedoms unknown to Chinese citizens.