cover image Mr. China's Son: A Villager's Life

Mr. China's Son: A Villager's Life

With *, Liyi He, He Liyi. Westview Press, $36 (312pp) ISBN 978-0-8133-1730-4

This surprising book--written in slightly quaint but effective English by a man long removed from his college study of the language--is truly history from the bottom up. He Liyi's ( The Spring of Butterflies ) story is set mainly in a remote area of northwestern Yunnan, but it shows how changes in the world's largest country filtered through the life of one village and of an observant but never bitter patriot. Son of a Kuomintang policeman who was executed, He endured five years of socialist reeducation in a labor camp before returning home in 1962. Trying to create a new life, he accepts his lot as a peasant and marries a virtuous local woman who does not fear poverty. While village festivals are joyous, He is denounced by his work group during the Cultural Revolution and he steals ``night soil'' to contribute his share to fertilizing the fields. With little irony, He recounts family meetings concerning division of labor and their own five-year plan. He's determination to tell his story suggests that the government--``Mr. China''--has not ground out his individuality. Chik, who taught English in China, helped He get a typewriter and edited his manuscript. Photos not seen by PW. (Dec.)