The Little Red Guard by Wenguang Huang

90%

9 Critic Reviews

Oddly, "The Little Red Guard" is a very American book. The humor and the angst it contains are built around a dysfunctional family living in cramped accommodations in a big city.
-Wall Street Journal

Synopsis

A Washington Post Best of 2012 pick



“Delightful . . . a book that brings a corner of modern China alive.”—The Wall Street Journal



When Wenguang Huang was nine years old, his grandmother became obsessed with her own death. Fearing cremation, she extracted from her family the promise to bury her after she died. This was in Xian, a city in central China, in the 1970s, when a national ban on all traditional Chinese practices, including burials, was strictly enforced. But Huang’s grandmother was persistent, and two years later, his father built her a coffin. He also appointed his older son, Wenguang, as coffin keeper, a distinction that meant, among other things, sleeping next to the coffin at night.



Over the next fifteen years, the whole family was consumed with planning Grandma’s burial, a regular source of friction and contention, with the constant risk of being caught by the authorities. Many years after her death, the family’s memories of her coffin still loom large. Huang, now living and working in America, has come to realize how much the concern over the coffin has affected his upbringing and shaped the lives of everyone in the family. Lyrical and poignant, funny and heartrending, The Little Red Guard is the powerful tale of an ordinary family finding their way through turbulence and transition.
 

About Wenguang Huang

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WENGUANG HUANG is a Chicago-based writer and translator. His writing has appeared in The Paris Review, Harper's, the Chicago Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, and the Asia Literary Review. Huang is the English translator of The Corpse Walker, God Is Red, and Woman from Shanghai. He grew up in northern China.
 
Published April 26, 2012 by Riverhead. 272 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Little Red Guard
All: 9 | Positive: 9 | Negative: 0

Wall Street Journal

Above average
Reviewed by Michael Fathers on Apr 29 2012

Oddly, "The Little Red Guard" is a very American book. The humor and the angst it contains are built around a dysfunctional family living in cramped accommodations in a big city.

Read Full Review of The Little Red Guard | See more reviews from Wall Street Journal

The Washington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Sarah Halzack on Jun 15 2012

The memoir is a fascinating look at unhealthy family dynamics: a wife who resents her husband’s blind devotion to his mother, grandchildren who begrudge their grandmother the sacrifices she forced on them, and a grandmother who blatantly favors her son and eldest grandson.

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Chicago Tribune

Excellent
Reviewed by Yunte Huang on May 07 2012

Revealing, ironic and effortlessly elegant, Huang's book unpacks the paradox of China through a story about an unusual, and proverbial, Chinese box — a coffin.

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Bookmarks Magazine

Excellent
Reviewed by Jon on May 28 2012

Lyrical and poignant, funny and heartrending, The Little Red Guard is the powerful tale of an ordinary family finding their way through turbulence and transition.

Read Full Review of The Little Red Guard

Publishing Perspective

Excellent
Reviewed by Edward Nawotka on Apr 30 2012

The Little Red Guard is by turns intimate and edifying; it makes for a fascinating, enlightening read.

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The Foreign Policy Initiative

Excellent
Reviewed by Ellen Bork on May 02 2012

Despite its heavy subject matter—death and communism—Little Red Guard is an engaging, quick read.

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Between The Covers

Good
Reviewed by Heather on May 01 2012

I highly recommend this to anyone who likes reading about other cultures, to anyone who enjoys a good memoir, and to anyone who is interested in learning more about China’s traditional, political, and economic past.

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The Feminist Texican Reads

Good
Reviewed by Melissa on Apr 26 2012

I really loved this memoir. It has it all: an unusual premise, straightforward but lovely storytelling, tension, suspense, history, and an in-depth immersion into completely different cultural ideals.

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Sue's Views

Good
Reviewed by Sue on Jul 08 2012

A different and interesting view of the world, indeed, and a gentle rendering of a Chinese family’s story.

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Reader Rating for The Little Red Guard
82%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 52 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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Robyn Todes

Robyn Todes 5 Sep 2013

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Akshat Shrivastava 5 Sep 2013

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