"By oscillating between scenes that are bland in their matter-of-fact concreteness and ones that are almost unbelievable in their nightmarish cruelty and complexity, Rae Yang skillfully evokes the bizarre and contradictory 'revolutionary' world in which she grew up in Mao's China. Spider Eaters is a reminder of what a traumatic history the Chinese people have undergone this century and that a country's pasteven when many would rather forget italways lives irrevocably on within those who experienced it."Orville Schell, author of Mandate of Heaven
"How can we expect anyone to know the United States without understanding the effect the Sixties had on all of us? Similarly, how can we know China without comprehending the impact the Sixties and the Cultural Revolution had on its politics, culture, and people? Rae Yang's Spider Eaters goes far in building that understanding. It is a gripping memoir."Lisa See, author of On Gold Mountain
Yang, assistant professor of East Asian studies at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., spent her early years in Switzerland as the daughter of a Chinese diplomat, and returned to Beijing in the mid-1950s. Although her father's background was upper-class, her parents were committed Communist Party members and educated Yang to become a Maoist revolutionary. This engrossing memoir deals with the cultural revolution of the 1960s, when Yang became a Red Guard who denounced adults she considered counterrevolutionaries. With other fanatic teens, she traveled the country spreading propaganda, raiding homes and inflicting beatings on anyone suspected of political disloyalty; one of these beatings led to the death of the victim. The author also describes friends and relatives who influenced her, vividly invoking her upper-class grandmother, who shared a rich heritage of folktales with Yang. After spending several years as a farm laborer, Yang began to question the revolution and made her way back to Beijing and eventually to the United States. Photos. (Apr.) FYI: The title refers to those driven to eat anything they can find, especially during hard times such as the famine, or Three-Year Natural Calamity, of 1959-1962.