But what I loved even more than the story itself was learning first hand from someone who lived and experienced the culture of China during a time of enormous chaos and change. In his early years he lived in rural china with his large close knit family practicing the centuries old traditions of his land (He tells us about those traditions.). He talks about what he and his family and friends felt and experienced as the old traditional culture crumbled and Mao's communist party took over and ruled. And where the culture is now. He shows us how deep his need for freedom was and what he had to do to realize that dream.
As a part of Madame Mao's new project for the arts, Li was taken out of his home at the age of eleven and relocated to Beijing where he studied ballet. Except for a short time at home most summers he spent the next years groomed in the communist party. Over time he became a famous dancer both in China and in America.
And here is the wonder of memoir. Sure, I've read history books and even learned about different cultures from books and TV shows. History is interesting but it is written from an observer's position. It is his story not mine. No outsider could have truly known what that period in China's history was really like for the people living it. Others can write about it but they can only imagine and tell what they see from their perspective.