Jiang, Ji-li 1954–
Jiang, Ji-li 1954–
PERSONAL: Name is pronounced "Gee-lee Chiang"; born February 3, 1954, in Shanghai, China; daughter of Xi-reng (an actor) and Ying (in sales; maiden name, Chen) Jiang. Education: Attended Shanghai Teachers' College, 1978–80, and Shanghai University, 1980–84; University of Hawaii at Manoa, B.A., 1987.
ADDRESSES: Home—4 Commodore Dr., No. 444, Emeryville, CA 94608. E-mail—jjiang8888\@aol.com.
CAREER: Aston Hotels and Resorts, Honolulu, HI, corporate operations analyst, 1987–92; University Health System, Chicago, IL, budgeting director, 1995–96; East West Exchange, Inc., Emeryville, CA, founder and president.
MEMBER: American Chinese Zhi-Qing Association, American Chinese Intellectuals Association, PEN American Center West, Northern California Children's Bookseller's Association, South Bay Area Reading Council.
AWARDS, HONORS: Red Scarf Girl was awarded a Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies citation, National Council for the Social Studies, Books in the Middle: Outstanding Titles of 1997, Voice of Youth Advocates, Books for Youth Editors' Choice, American Library Association Booklist, Best Books of 1997 designation, Publishers Weekly; Nonfiction Honor List designation, Voice of Youth Advocates, and Book Links Lasting Connections Citation, American Library Association, all 1997; Children's Literature Award, California Bay Area Book Reviewers Association, Book of Distinction, River Bank Review, Parents' Choice Gold Award and Story Book Award, Judy Lopez Memorial Award, Notable Children's Book, Best Book for Young Adults, all 1998; and Pennsylvania Young Readers' Choice Award, 1999–2000.
Magical Monkey King: Mischief in Heaven, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Research on "the differences and conflict between the East and West, in terms of culture, custom, philosophy, value, et cetera."
SIDELIGHTS: Red Scarf Girl is Ji-li Jiang's autobiographical account of her very difficult adolescence during Chairman Mao Tse Tung's 1966 Cultural Revolution in China. A talented girl with a seemingly bright future, Jiang embraced the revolutionary ideals of her day, until the movement degenerated into a witch hunt for anyone "tainted" by capitalism. Because Jiang's paternal grandfather was a wealthy landowner, her entire family faced severe persecution. "Jiang describes in terrifying detail the ordeals of her family and those like them, including unauthorized search and seizure, persecution, arrest and torture, hunger, and public humiliation," noted Janice M. Del Negro in a Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books review of Jiang's memoir. Roger Sutton, reviewing the work for Horn Book, called Red Scarf Girl "a rare personal glimpse of the upheaval China suffered during the 1960s" and added that "the child's point of view is firmly maintained" and the "conflict between political and family expectations is well portrayed." School Library Journal contributor John Philbrook praised the book as "a page-turner" and as "excellent discussion material," asserting that Jiang's "the writing style is lively and the events often have a heart-pounding quality about them." Similarly, Kat Kan, writing in Voice of Youth Advocates, contended that Jiang's "compelling story makes history come alive for teens, much as Anne Frank's diary has done for decades."
In the Magical Monkey King: Mischief in Heaven, Jiang retells a classic Chinese trickster story about a monkey who, part Earth and part Heaven, finds a new home for his threatened family while attempting to trick Jade Emperor and other powerful creatures. "It takes Buddha himself to rein Monkey in and lock him up until he learns from his mistakes," noted Denise Wilms in a Booklist review of Jiang's retelling. In Kirkus Reviews a contributor noted, "Clever, arrogant, far longer on appetite than attention span, Monkey makes an engaging antihero whose acquaintance young readers … will be glad to make."
Raised in a creative and affluent household, Jiang once commented: "When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being an actress. During the Cultural Revolution, although my talent was praised, I was turned down again and again for professional art troupes because of my family's political background. In 1976 the Cultural Revolution ended. New policies were supposed to be implemented. For the first time I might have a chance at achieving my dream, and I was excited. I sent in my application to the Shanghai Drama Institute and waited for the audition. Then I received a letter saying that my district had denied my participation again. I was in despair. I was making plastic flowers in a very small factory and earning seventy cents per day in Chinese currency, equivalent to about twenty-five cents in the United States. This [was] … my last chance, since the next year I would be too old to enter the program.
"Time passed, and I moved to America. My first year in Honolulu, I lived with an American family. They were very interested in my life in China. Using my very limited English, I shared some of my stories with them. One day I got a present from them, a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank. Inside they wrote: 'In the hope that some day we will read The Diary of Ji-li Jiang.'…. Not long after I started to work for a hotel chain, one of my co-workers asked me, 'Ji-li, how come you don't have bound feet?' I was shocked: this was like asking 'how come you don't wear a corset?' I realized then how little some Americans knew about China and the Chinese people. I made up my mind to write my story at once. We had experienced a holocaust, too. Few people knew about it. So finally I started writing my story."
Jiang has continued to promote understanding of her native country by founding her own company, East West Exchange, Inc., which promotes and facilitates cultural exchange. "I believe it is very important to increase understanding between the east and the west," the author noted, adding that, on a personal level, it has been "very rewarding to bridge the gap between China and western countries."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
ALAN Review, winter, 1998.
Booklist, October 1, 1997, p. 331; April 15, 2002, p. 1397.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 1998, p. 206.
Horn Book, January-February, 1998, p. 76.
Instructor, October, 1997, p. 48.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1997, p. 1391; April 15, 2002, p. 571
Publishers Weekly, July 28, 1997, p. 75; November 10, 1997, p. 28.
School Library Journal, December, 1997, p. 139.
Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 1998, p. 365; June, 1998, p. 145.
Ji-li Jiang Web site, http://www.jilijiang.com/ (August 24, 2004).