Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter
Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter

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Annotation: Adeline Yen Mah returns to her roots to paint an authentic portrait of 20th-century China as well as tell the story of her painful childhood where she and her siblings are subject to their stepmother's disdain.
Genre: Biographies
Catalog Number: #52383
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
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Publisher: Dell
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition Date: 2011
Pages: xv, 205 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-385-74007-7 Perma-Bound: 0-605-80802-3
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-385-74007-4 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-80802-7
Dewey: 921
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Mama died giving birth to you. If you had not been born, Mama would still be alive. Even though Mama died two weeks after the birth from a fever, this brutal message dooms Wu Mei (Fifth Younger Sister) throughout her sad and lonely childhood in China during the 1940s and 1950s. Wu Mei, whose English name is Adeline, faces the anger and cruelty of her family; only an aunt and frail grandfather are supportive. Shunted off to boarding schools, left out of family activities, Adeline nevertheless thrives academically and hopes desperately (and futily) to please her father. In this young adult version of the author's Falling Leaves Mah offers a bittersweet look into the pain of childhood and a fascinating glimpse at a tumultuous time in China. Amazingly unscathed by the Communist revolution, her wealthy family heads for Hong Kong after Mao assumes power and resumes its privileged lifestyle. There are moments of clumsiness, as when Adeline verbalizes her distress in ways young people probably would not: And if I should be so lucky as to succeed one day, it will be because you believed in me, she tells her grandfather. But this is a captivating read because we care so much about the heroine and her future. (Reviewed October 1, 1999)
Horn Book
After her mother dies giving birth to her, Adeline's siblings, who consider her bad luck, scapegoat her, and her wealthy father and vain stepmother deprive her of friends and send her away to school. This riveting memoir of a turbulent childhood is enriched by Chinese-language lessons, a generous historical backdrop, and a half-dozen family photos; baldly expository dialogue is its only real flaw.
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
ALA Booklist (10/1/99)
Horn Book (4/1/00)
Voice of Youth Advocates
Wilson's Junior High Catalog
Word Count: 49,573
Reading Level: 5.7
Interest Level: 7-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.7 / points: 8.0 / quiz: 31890 / grade: Upper Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:6.8 / points:11.0 / quiz:Q19259
Lexile: 960L
Guided Reading Level: R
Fountas & Pinnell: R
Top of the Class


As soon as I got home from school, Aunt Baba noticed the silver medal dangling from the left breast pocket of my uniform. She was combing her hair in front of the mirror in our room when I rushed in and plopped my schoolbag down onto my bed.

"What's that hanging on your dress?"

"It's something special that Mother Agnes gave me in front of the whole class this afternoon. She called it an award."

My aunt looked thrilled. "So soon? You only started kindergarten a week ago. What is it for?"

"It's for leading my class this week. When Mother Agnes pinned it on my dress, she said I could wear it for seven days. Here, this certificate goes with it." I opened my schoolbag and handed her an envelope as I climbed onto her lap.

She opened the envelope and took out the certificate. "Why, it's all written in French or English or some other foreign language. How do you expect me to read this, my precious little treasure?" I knew she was pleased because she was smiling as she hugged me. "One day soon," she continued, "you'll be able to translate all this into Chinese for me. Until then, we'll just write today's date on the envelope and put it away somewhere safe. Go close the door properly and put on the latch so no one will come in."

I watched her open her closet door and take out her safe-deposit box. She took the key from a gold chain around her neck and placed my certificate underneath her jade bracelet, pearl necklace and diamond watch, as if my award were also some precious jewel impossible to replace.

As she closed the lid, an old photograph fell out. I picked up the faded picture and saw a solemn young man and woman, both dressed in old-fashioned Chinese robes. The man looked rather familiar.

"Is this a picture of my father and dead mama?" I asked.

"No. This is the wedding picture of your grandparents. Your Ye Ye was twenty-six and your Nai Nai was only fifteen." She quickly took the photo from me and locked it into her box.

"Do you have a picture of my dead mama?"

She avoided my eyes. "No. But I have wedding pictures of your father and your stepmother, Niang. You were only one year old when they married. Do you want to see them?"

"No. I've seen those before. I just want to see one of my own mama. Do I look like her?" Aunt Baba did not reply, but busied herself with putting the safe-deposit box back into her closet. After a while I said, "When did my mama die?"

"Your mother came down with a high fever three days after you were born. She died when you were two weeks old. . . ." She hesitated for a moment, then exclaimed suddenly, "How dirty your hands are! Have you been playing in that sandbox at school again? Go wash them at once! Then come back and do your homework!"

I did as I was told. Though I was only four years old, I understood I should not ask Aunt Baba too many questions about my dead mama. Big Sister once told me, "Aunt Baba and Mama used to be best friends. A long time ago, they worked together in a bank in Shanghai owned by our grandaunt, the youngest sister of Grandfather Ye Ye. But then Mama died giving birth to you. If you had not been born, Mama would still be alive. She died because of you. You are bad luck."

A Tianjin Family

At the time of my birth, Big Sister was six and a half years old. My three brothers were five, four and three. They blamed me for causing Mama's death and never forgave me.

A year later, Father remarried. Our stepmother, whom we called Niang, was a seventeen-year-old Eurasian beauty fourteen years his junior. Father always introduced her to his friends as his French wife, though she was actually half French and half Chinese. Besides Chinese, she also spoke French and Engli

Excerpted from Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

More than 800,000 copies in print!
From the author of critically acclaimed and bestselling memoir Falling Leaves, this is a poignant and moving true account of her childhood, growing up as an unloved daughter in 1940s China.

A Chinese proverb says, "Falling leaves return to their roots." In her own courageous voice, Adeline Yen Mah returns to her roots to tell the story of her painful childhood and her ultimate triumph in the face of despair. 

Adeline's affluent, powerful family considers her bad luck after her mother dies giving birth to her, and life does not get any easier when her father remarries. Adeline and her siblings are subjected to the disdain of her stepmother, while her stepbrother and stepsister are spoiled with gifts and attention. Although Adeline wins prizes at school, they are not enough to compensate for what she really yearns for -- the love and understanding of her family. Like the classic Cinderella story, this powerful memoir is a moving story of resilience and hope. 

Includes an Author's Note, a 6-page photo insert, a historical note, and the Chinese text of the original Chinese Cinderella.


“One of the most inspiring books I have ever read.” –The Guardian

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