Chinese Cinderella: A Memoir of an unwanted daughter

Chinese Cinderella is a compelling memoir of an unwanted daughter, Adeline Yen Mah whose mother passed away after her birth delivery. After the death of her mother, her father remarried to a strict Eurasian mother named Niang, who discriminated Adeline and her older siblings from fourth brother and baby sister, to whom Niang gave birth. So she was considered a bad luck by rest of her older siblings for ending peaceful lives and bringing a tragedy within the family.
Adeline Yen Mah was denied carfare, and whipped for attending a classmate’s birthday party and forgetting school at the end of the day. No one liked Adeline except her grandfather Ye Ye and her aunt Baba. Even her father didn’t care about her; he even forgot how to spell her name. Even when Adeline, who was smart enough to skip two grades, won a competition and won a prize, no one went to celebrate with her. It wasn’t only Niang and her father who made her life tragic; her older brothers hated her as well. Her older brothers bugged her by pulling her hair and reminding her about the guilt that she committed. They even put urine with an orange juice to make her drink. Just because their mother passed away during a birth delivery, Adeline had to suffer from all these tragedies and indifference from her family.

Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah

Overwhelmed by a poignant story of an unlucky Chinese daughter, but little bit depressed throughout.

The title Chinese Cinderella first made me relate to the fairy tale Cinderella, in which a main character Cinderella who lost parents and lived a tragic life, suddenly changed after meeting with a magician. So the title did grab my attention, for the title Cinderella was familiar to most of the readers, letting the readers expect the plot of the story beforehand. On the very first page of the book, the author briefly gave a background of the story, which was very helpful for readers to better understand the plot. So one of the most interesting parts of the story was to relate the story to classic Cinderella story as I read along.

The book is laid out in chronological order, so it was very straightforward to read, unlike the book that contains lots of flashbacks. The author wrote the book from first perspective and included many dialogues between her family, so it was very easy to understand the characteristics of each character. The story begins with her childhood during which she was told by her aunt that it was her who caused the death of the mother and Adeline would be considered a bad luck within a family. Emphasizing the fact that her mother died during birth delivery is necessary, for this fact is the main reason why Adeline was inspired to share her poignant life story; however, I thought she emphasized too much about this fact that it started to make the readers feel bored and depressed.

The plot that she described touched me emotionally. Even though she didn’t use effective word choice to fully describe how she felt, she referred to many examples of how she was not welcomed at home and wished to rather stay at school, talking with her friends. Whipped by her parents, beaten up and forced to drink a mixture of urine and orange juice made by her brothers, and other examples revealed enough how much she was not welcomed and how much she suffered. She also described two completely different worlds; her life at home and at school, where she was welcomed by her classmates for her intelligence. It was interesting to see that she described school as if it were a utopia, while most people would choose not to go to school and prefer to stay home instead. Introducing two completely different worlds and relating between them show how much she desired to stay away from her family members. The overall description of the book serves to encourage unlucky children to overcome hardships and become a successful like her.

Author Biography

Adeline Yen Mah was born in Tianjin, China. However, her mother passed away while giving birth to Adeline, so Adeline was considered bad luck by her siblings. At fourteen, she had opportunity to study at England, where she earned a medical degree. During her free time, she wrote about her life story, Falling Leaves. When her first book sold millions of copies worldwide, she devoted her time to writing and released second novel, Chinese Cinderella.