AKA: Portrait of a Coffin
What I enjoyed most about this memoir was that it followed China into the modern era. I’ve read so many novels and memoirs that stay in China’s schizophrenic past so it was enlightening to learn about the the changes that led to the China of the present.
“At the age of 10, I slept next to a coffin that Father had made for Grandma.” Grandma wanted to go against the Maoist orders and forgo cremation and be buried. This puts tremendous strain on the family. What if others found out? They could be exposed and loose even the little they had. Wenguang was the keeper of his grandmother’s “shou mu,” or “longevity wood,” a Chinese euphemism for coffin. Huang describes a family saga unfolding against the backdrop of the upheavals and fluctuations of 20th century China. Grandma is certainly a paragon of virtue and devotion. She stayed at home carring for Wenguang so his mother could work. Neighbors and friends worship her; they line up to pay tribute to her early in the morning on New Year’s Day, hoping that some of her good luck and longevity might rub off on them. Though she fought ruthlessly with the mother.