Among the millions of victims during the decades-long pandemonium, Nien Cheng
was able to deliver her own gripping story in simple and fluent English. That
was power. It was also helpful that I knew the political lingo, e.g., capitalist
roaders, revisionists, comprador, etc., thanks to my parents and schooling.
Rarely having to look up words, I finished the 560-page volume in three days.
Her first-hand experience was more engrossing than a historical fiction. Her
narrative and command of the language were impressive.
I learnt a few words and phrases in contexts. For example, when she pointed out
the political about-face in turning against the bourgeois class, her
interrogator explained that they were no longer needed after Kuomintang was
driven out and the reversal was the practice of "dialectical materialism."
"There was nothing for me to say. The interrogator had put the philosophy of
Mao's regime in a nutshell. It was entirely my own fault that I had not
understood it before."
I first heard of "rehabilitation" in the movie The Shawshank Redemption where
the word means to restore (someone) to normal life by punishment and education in
prison. In the book, it takes on a different meaning, i.e., to restore someone
to former privileges or reputation after a period of critical or official
disfavor. It was an apt translation of the Chinese 平反.
Through the dark tunnel of six and a half years of torture, the author fought
brilliantly and refused to bow down to bullying and to confess. It was a miracle
that she survived to see the light at the end and yet right away had to face the
murder of her only daughter. I couldn't empathize and didn't even want to imagine
the pain. And yet she again triumphed over the blows dealt by fate and was
rehabilitated in another six years. At the age of 65, she turned the new page of
life by coming to America and published the book when she was 72. What an
amazing and inspiring life!