Girl Under a Red Moon : Growing Up during China's Cultural Revolution

by Da Chen

Scholastic Focus
September 2019

Ages 8 – 12 . Grades 3 – 7

In a small village called Yellow Stone, in southeastern China, Sisi is a model sister, daughter, and student. She brews tea for her grandfather in the morning, leads recitations at school as class monitor, and helps care for her youngest brother, Da.

But when students are selected during a school ceremony to join the prestigious Red Guard, Sisi is passed over. Worse, she is shamed for her family's past -- they are former landowners who have no place in the new Communist order. Her only escape is to find work at another school, bringing Da along with her. But the siblings find new threats in Bridge Town, too, and Sisi will face choices between family and nation, between safety and justice. With the tide of the Cultural Revolution rising, Sisi must decide if she will swim against the current, or get swept up in the wave.

Bestselling author Da Chen paints a vivid portrait of his older sister and a land thrust into turmoil during the tumultuous Chinese Cultural Revolution.
Da Chen

Da Chen’s life is a true immigrant success story. A native of China, Chen grew up in a tiny village without electricity or running water. He was a victim of communist political persecution during the Chinese Cultural Revolution but then went on to study at the Beijing Languages and Culture University. Da arrived in America at the age of twenty-three with only $30 and a bamboo flute, and attended the Columbia University School of Law on a full scholarship. Da is the New York Times bestselling author of Colors of the Mountain, a memoir; Sounds of the River; Brothers; the middle-grade novels Wandering Warrior and Girl Under a Red Moon; and several other titles. He lives in Southern California, with his family.


--- - ! 'Sisi had managed to snatch one red armband. It had fallen to the ground and was a bit damp and smudged with dirt, but it was new and smelling of the yellow ink just printed on the band that read: Red Guard.

I am officially guarding the socialist land under the red sun of Chairman Mao, she thought with pride.

The frustrated principal stepped forward, adjusted his glasses, and cleared his throat. He informed the students that he was going to read the names of those chosen. If a student''s name was not called, they were to give back their red armband.

The list wasn''t that long, fifty students in all. But from the mouth of the principal, each name was squeezed out slowly, with effort, like a goat discharging pebbly manure. The names of her friends, Li Jun and Hin Ru, were read off, along with other student leaders, but Sisi''s name had not been uttered yet.

The last name on the list was finally read. It was not Sisi''s name.

Her heart sank.

As the principal came down the steps toward Sisi, her heart rose again. He called out Sisi''s name and, taking her hand, led her up onto the stage. With her standing beside him, he declared that they had been making a grave mistake for a long time -- the mistake to put the daughter of a disgraced landlord in a position of leadership.

He snatched the red band from Sisi''s trembling hands and ordered her to leave school and never to return again.

Sisi didn''t know what to do or think. The words struck her like unexpected thunderbolts. Her heart climbed up into her throat and hot tears trickled down her cheeks.

The principal roughly shoved Sisi off the stage. The crowd was utterly silent as Sisi stumbled off the stage and fell. Picking herself up, she slowly began to run along the muddy road, following the three fresh tracks left behind by the chief''s vehicle.'