Zhu Xiao-Mei was three years old when she saw her first piano, a cherished instrument introduced into her family's Beijing home by her mother. Soon after, the child began to play, developing quickly into a prodigy who immersed herself in the work of such classical masters as Bach and Brahms. Her astonishing proficiency earned her a spot at the Beijing Conservatory at the tender age of 11, where she began laying the foundation for a promising career as a concert pianist. But in 1966, with the onset of the Cultural Revolution, life as she knew it ended abruptly.
The Communist Party's campaign against culture forced the closure of art schools and resulted in the deportation of countless Chinese, including Xiao-Mei and her entire family. She spent five years in a work camp in Inner Mongolia, suffering under abysmal living conditions and a brutal brainwashing campaign. Yet through it all, Xiao-Mei kept her dream alive, drawing on the power of music to sustain her courage.
©2012 Zhu Xiao-Mei (P)2012 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
Love books both fiction & non-fiction, but fairly new to audio books. Other interests inc country music, walking, heritage and travel.
This is a memoir of life in China during Mao's reforms and afterwards as Xiao-Mei tries to pick up the rest of her life. I found it fascinating and yet it wasn't overly sentimental. We first meet the author as a child wanting to study music. Slowly we witness the indoctrination of her mind with the beliefs of the time and see choice taken away from her. I think it's hard for a modern reader to truly understand what restrictions were in place during that period, and this memoir brings that to life. It is nice that it follows the story after the cultural revolution so we see how Xiao-Mei's experience affected her. Interesting and inspirational.
"A very powerful story"
No, but then I enjoy reading. I purchased this audible version on a whim. I do have an extensive audible book library (mostly on tape :-)) but I tent to read more than listen. The idea of reading the book in the house then listening to it in the car appealed to me.
The read, listen, read feature with the Kindle is amazing. The last read pointers are spot to taking you to the page or first read paragraph of the page when listening. Amazing when you think about it. But this is not supposed to be a review of Whisper Sync
I am not a big biography|autobiography person. Read a few in school when I had to and maybe 3 others in the last 30 years. So if your are looking for a comparative review this is not it.
The opportunity to read an uncensored account about someones experiences in another country by someone approximately my age appealed to me.
As I recall growing up the cultural revolution in China was a good thing. At least that was the common consensus in the media at the time. This book proves otherwise.
No, this is my first book by her. She is very articulate and easy to listen to. Definitely not the cheap pigeon English knock off other producers have used when trying to tell an Asian story.
You simply can not read or listing to this book without tearing up. It is a painfully unbiased account of at best brutal times in China. It would serve some people well to read it before parroting the current anti-Chinese sediment made popular by recent elections.
The author has given a large gift of herself by writing this book. And I would imaging put herself at considerable risk. For that I am extremely grateful and will try to get some of my more biased friends to read and or listen to it.
You can not get a much more extreme reaction than trying to get a red neck friend to read a book about a pianist in a commie country!
This is simply a must experience book. It has a place on the required reading list for high school. Too bad reading is no longer required in high school.
"Music, Philosophy, and Life"
An interesting book, which provided me with an insight into the Communist regime in China, which I had not previously had. The parts about music were so touchingly passionate, humble, and sincere, almost reverential towards the end, that I often sat with tears in my eyes.
I did think, though, that I would've been able to appreciate it more, had I had a greater knowledge of classical music, theory, and composers.
I enjoyed the religious/philosophical comparisons, and especially the sayings of Lao Tzu and Taoism.
The narrator was really easy on the ear and I found her reading enjoyable.
A very worthwhile book I would listen to again.
I have a few friends that survived the intellectual and Cultural Revolution in China so when I saw this memoir I grabbed it so I could understand more about what my friends went through in China.
Zhu Xiao-Mei was born to middle class parents in post war China and her musical proficiency became clear at an early age. She quickly became a prodigy. She was Ten years old when she began rigorous courses of study at the Beijing Conservatory of Music. In 1966 when she was seventeen, the Cultural Revolution began and her life changed forever. Her family was scattered, sentenced to prison or labor camps. In 1969 all schools had closed and Xiao-Mei was sent to a work camp in Mongolia where she spent the next five years. She suffered horrific living conditions and an intensive brain washing campaign. When the revolution ended, it was the piano that helped her heal.
Zhu Xiao-Mei explains, art is rich with human emotion and thought and that is why the communist regime sought to eliminate art, music and literature. The freedom of expression and knowledge was dangerous to the regime. The Cultural Revolution struck down students, teachers, and the education system. I find this story of Xiao-Mei life’s challenge and how she managed to turn the oppression into extraordinary resolve rather than break, as probably many people around her did, fascinating.
Xiao-Mei left China for the United States in 1979 joining the New England Conservatory in Boston, obtaining a Master’s degree in Piano performance in 1985. She moved to Paris, France in 1985 and teaches at the Conservatoire de Paris and performs concerts around the world.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The book was narrated by Nancy Wu.
"The eternal fight for Music"
When a piano - a PIANO - was smuggled into a Chinese labor camp! It was astounding!
Yes! It was a riveting listen, making a long bus trip go by much quicker than it otherwise would have. It is not an easy read, but lest we forget...
This book is definitely very musically technical, but you don't need to be familiar with all things musical to appreciate the struggle present under an oppressive government regime.
"Hard to Put This Book Down"
Yes, the narration was so life like. I was actually reading along as the narrative flowed with each word. It was like sitting with the author as she told her story. I could never have pronounced all the Chinese words and I didn't have to. Nancy Wu's wonderful and expressive narration brought the story to life for me.
Obviously the author, Zhu Xiao-Mei, was my favorite as the story was about her own life. She is a person I can relate to. I am a musician also.
The scene that grabbed me from the start was the first one told of three year old Zhu Xiao-Mei seeing a piano for the very first time. I recall my first time too. It's something you never forget.
More than any other reaction to the book, I was reminded of my own childhood safely in a free America while others my own age suffered greatly on the other side of the world. I'd never really thought too much about what other people have overcome in their lives to achieve their dreams until I read this book.
If you're discouraged and thinking of quitting, read this book. It will inspire you to keep on trying and never give up.
"Touching and Sad"
As the other reviewers have said Zhu Xiao-Mei had a great love for music and a determined need to grow in her art but her avoidance of affection for her family is sad. She loved her grandmother when a child but was alienated from her through the political situation in China. Her family was untrusting of each other as a result of the despotic where total loyalty to the state was demanded. They were not allowed to show physical love or sorrow even in a long term departures. The book was all about her need for music. She wasn't able to work on her human relationships as hard as she worked on her art. She didn't mention what happened to her husband of convenience or any other love relationships. The book would have been more interesting if she hadn't been so guarded but she was so brainwashed as a child it was probably impossible to express her deep feelings.
Watch her on you tube playing the Goldberg variations they are amazing as she has such little hands to be able to play so well and with such tender feelings. Number 7 is my favorite.
"calm and thrilling"
Because it reminds me my own experiences under a dictatorship in Argentina
A voice and an image
from anger to peace of mind
"Interesting and Honest"
I've had this in my audio queue for a long time. I only found it through the "read this book next" emails that I get from publishers. I'm glad I didn't miss this one. Concert Pianist relives her days in China before and after the cultural revolution. Brutally honest, and still dealing with the guilt of her actions while in childhood, but able to convey the real story. I've never been very taken with Bach. Not enough fire! Give me Motzart, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff! But I can see why Bach saved her, and I'm glad I read her story,and have now found her mp3s on itunes. Anyone who loves music should read this story. I learned as a musician, and as a human.
I will say I was surprised at how brutally honest she was. She carried alot of guilt over her childhood and teen actions due to the brainwashing in the Cultural Revolution. ITs heartbreaking. Something she said really stuck with me. She is now a Christian, although she doesn't proselytize about it. Instead, quite the opposite. She mentioned a church or group she went to that was preaching Christianity the way Mao was preached in China. Of course, she didn't stick with that group. In fact, America didn't free her to worship. Food for thought.
"The True Meaning Of Grit"
Recently I have been learning about the meaning of GRIT. I think this novel embodies that word, yet not in the aggressive and forceful nature of GRIT as we would imagine it, rather by the quite persistent perseverance of that pianist.
"Great Story, Awful Reader"
Independent human spirit.
Zhu Xiao-Mei's story is highly interesting and sad. She lived through the Cultural Revolution as a music conservatory student. Her conservatory was shut down by the Maoist regime, first by burning all of the music scores, then by humiliation and violence toward the professors and students (and using the conservatory as a mass grave to store bodies), then by sending the students to labor camps to "reeducate" them. The fact that music wasn't allowed in China yet she still managed to become a concert pianist in France and the United States is inspiring. Besides her background, I most enjoyed her musical philosophizing wherein she recounted things her professors had taught her, what she learned from personal practice, and what it was like having a passion for music and not being allowed to play it. This is definitely a book a musician can pick up and be VERY inspired (comes with a jargon warning label for the non-musician, though).
No—at least not one that contains musical jargon or recounts stories death and oppression. She would be a good reader of children's books, but sometimes read very dark parts in the book with a giddy excitement that confused me. Some musical words she mispronounced were Bach, opus (she said "op" instead of "opus"!), scherzo, Mozart, pianist (!!!) (I know that one's debatable, but musicians I think only pronounce it one way: pi-AN-ist), and about 3 or 4 others. Because these are everyday words for me, I found her chronic musical mispronunciations so annoying that I began reading the book on Kindle instead. And as I mentioned, she read the scenes about the devastation the Cultural Revolution caused under communist dictator Mao Zedong as if she were reading "Pippi Longstocking" to a child, so that was annoying too. Her biggest plus was her Chinese pronunciation, which was very helpful to me because I know nothing about it and would have otherwise been lost.
Although it did not make me cry, it inspired me to think more about music's role in being an expression of the independent human spirit. When a regime attacks music, art, and literature, there's something about those things that they want to prevent. People bent on control know that in order to have people wrapped around their fingers, they need to eliminate expression. It's part of their attempt to kill the soul. Passion for these things, however, can't die. That makes musicians, artists and writers (even if they're just little kids) dangerous to despots.
Highly recommended book!
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