Number Four will have a difficult life. These are the words that were uttered upon Ting-xing Ye’s birth. Soon this prophecy would prove only too true. . . .
Here is the real-life story about the fourth child in a family torn apart by China’s Cultural Revolution. After the death of both of her parents, Ting-xing and her siblings endured brutal Red Guard attacks on their schools and even in their home. At the age of sixteen, Ting-xing is exiled to a prison farm far from the world she knows.
How she struggled through years of constant terror while keeping her spirit intact is at the heart of My Name Is Number 4. Haunting and inspiring, Ting-xing Ye’s personal account of this horrific period in history is one that no reader will soon forget.
Unlike her first memoir, A Leaf in the Bitter Wind (Ruminator Books, 1999), broader in scope and written for adults, this offering focuses on the circumstances leading up to Ye's assignment to a prison farm outside Shanghai at sixteen and the four harrowing years spent there during China's Cultural Revolution. The daughter of educated parents, Ye enjoys an idyllic childhood that quickly erodes with the onset of the revolution, the nationalization of the family business, and the death of her parents. Ye is nicknamed "Foursie," the fourth of five children left in the care of a family servant. Labeled capitalists despite their parentless and dire existence, the siblings' hardships and humiliations comprise the first half of Ye's tale. Her struggle to cope with abuse before finally winning her release from the prison farm makes up the second half of this slim volume. Ye's writing is not poetic, but her ability to describe the upheaval of China's Cultural Revolution from a teen's perspective is unique and touching. Dealing with ostracism and humiliation at an age when belonging is paramount was difficult, even torturous. The endeavor to survive leads the siblings through a series of personal vacillations. Such is the case when Ye boards a train to Beijing in hopes of catching a glimpse of Mao Ze-dong. Ye's tale is filled with colorful anecdotal and personal detail, with just enough historical explanation to captivate teens. Her underdog yet determined existence will easily sustain a wide variety of readers. Reviewer: Lauri J. Vaughan