Monday, April 28, 2014

Inspiration in Memoirs, Mao's last Dancer. Learn about other cultures.

What an incredible story! What an incredible life. Many of you may have seen the movie "Mao's Last Dancer," but how many of you have read the 500 page book memoir of Li Cunxin? It is absolutely inspirational. What a motivated, brave, and courageous youth.

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.

As the world grows ever smaller and we long to live in peace with all cultures and peoples, it is essential that we learn and experience who they truly are through their eyes, not ours. It is only then that we can empathize with each other and gain compassion for everyone. Memoirs that incorporate the experience, the thoughts, and the strong emotions, as well as the spiritual beliefs the author lives by. They provide us with the 3-D pictures of the past that we can get in no other way. And that is why I am writing the stories as told to me by my father when they escaped Russia in 1924. How about you? Is there something in your life you need to write about?


Jennifer Rova said...

I read Mao's Last Dancer and loved it. I have not seen the movie. I love to travel and I think it was spawned first from vacations with my family while I was growing up but secondly from reading so many books set in foreign countries, historical fiction and experiences people from other cultures tell about. It has enriched my world and made me curious. Hopefully it has fueled a better understanding of other cultures and customs.

Ana said...

What a great way to learn about other cultures! You were a lucky child to have family that enjoyed travelling.