This is a unique memoir of modern China, a story of courage, of despair and of hope. Margaret Sun was born in Shanghai in1935 into a poor Cantonese family but English was her main language almost from birth. In 1956, she volunteered to go to work in China’s far northwest region of Xinjiang, and she witnessed China’s changes from the communist takeover in 1949 at the most basic levels of society, all the way through to today, with English running through her head.
Margaret tells of how she sold cigarettes on the streets of Old Shanghai, of the bitter life in the most isolated parts of China in the late 1950s, of the Cultural Revolution and other campaigns, and then the shift towards normalcy at the end of the 1970s. Her story is inspiring and eye-opening, an evocative and highly-readable account of how the huge events in China’s modern history impacted on ordinary people.
“The existence of this book is a miracle. Margaret Sun uses plain language to bring readers into a world of sandstorms, camels and milk tea, providing a unique and valuable account of life in Xinjiang in the Mao era, through the eyes of a Shanghai girl. Against a desolate background, she describes political turmoil and the cruelty of destiny. But through it all, she always adheres to her beliefs and conscience.”
— Professor Liu Woyu, Nanjing University