A Girl Named Faithful Plum: A True Story of a Dancer from China and How She Achieved Her Dreamby Published 17 Apr 2018
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In 1977, when Zhongmei Lei was eleven years old, she learned that the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy was having open auditions. She'd already taken dance lessons, but everyone said a poor country girl would never get into the academy, especially without any connections in the Communist Party of the 1970s. But Zhongmei, whose name means Faithful Plum, persisted, even going on a hunger strike, until her parents agreed to allow her to go. She traveled for three days and two nights to get to Beijing and eventually beat out 60,000 other girls for one of 12 coveted spots. But getting in was easy compared to staying in, as Zhongmei soon learned. Without those all-important connections she was just a little girl on her own, far away from family. But her determination, talent, and sheer force of will were not something the teachers or other students expected, and soon it was apparent that Zhongmei was not to be underestimated.
Zhongmei became a famous dancer, and founded her own dance company, which made its New York debut when she was in just her late 20s. In A Girl Named Faithful Plum, her husband and renowned journalist, Richard Bernstein, has written a fascinating account of one girl's struggle to go from the remote farmlands of China to the world's stages, and the lengths she went to in order to follow her dream.
From the Hardcover edition.
"A Girl Named Faithful Plum: A True Story of a Dancer from China and How She Achieved Her Dream" Reviews
Non-Fiction A Girl Named Faithful Plum: The True Story of a Dancer from China and How She Achieved Her Dream
By: Richard Bernstein
Pairing I paired the book “A Girl Named Faithful Plum” with the TeenNick show Dance Academy because they both relate to a passion for dance.
Audience I would recommend this book to any middle or high school student interested in dance. It also has a common theme of working hard to achieve your dreams. The main character is from a small town in China during the Cultural Revolution and communism.
SOL WHII.13 The student will demonstrate knowledge of major events in the second half of the twentieth century by
c) describing conflicts and revolutionary movements in eastern Asia, including those in China and Vietnam, and their major leaders, i.e., Mao Tse-tung (Zedong), Chiang Kai-shek, and Ho Chi Minh;
Review Source School Library Journal; November 2011, Vol. 57 Issue 11, p145-145, 1p
Awards, Honors A Junior Library Guild Selection
Selection Criteria Accuracy: This book accurately depicts what life was like during the Cultural Revolution in China for a small farm family. The book is a nonfiction account of Li Zhongmei’s struggle to become a successful dancer in the Beijing Dance Company.
Authority: This book is published by Alfred A. Knopf a division of Random House Inc. This nonfiction story was written by Richard Bernstein. He was a foreign correspondent for Time Magazine and the New York Times which allowed him to visit China. A Girl Named Faithful Plum is his first book for young readers. He is married to the main character in the story, Zhongmei.
Relevance to Curriculum: This story is a personal account of a girl trying to achieve her dreams during a cultural revolution. The book addresses issues of communism, socialism, and prejudice.
Appropriateness: The reading level of this book is sixth through eighth grade. This book would interest dancers and students who have to overcome obstacles to achieve their dreams. I think intellectually middle school students could understand the struggle the main character endures. I think middle school students could also emotionally handle this story, although it would be difficult for most of them to imagine how challenging the economic situation was for her parents.
Scope: This book not only covers the topic of dance and the differences between Western ballet and Chinese ballet, but it shares the experience of a girl attending a dance school in Beijing during the cultural revolution.
Literary Merit: The book is not only well written, but it includes five pages of photographs. The pictures show important milestones in Zhongmei’s life as a dancer.
Value to the Collection: This book would be a great selection for any dancer. It would also make the topic of communism relatable to a middle school girl.
Ordering Info $15.99 (Hardcover), $18.99 (Library Binding)
Knopf Books for Young Readers
True story of an impoverished 11 year old girl from northern China (Siberia being the town's back fence) in the 1970s who travels to Beijing and tries out for the Beijing Dance Academy (She and 30,000 other kids). Her difficulties in getting to Beijing and then the prejudices she faces at the school make for a wonderful tale. She’s an amazing girl and I liked the story.
It read like a 40 year-old man was ‘telling’ us about and 11 year old girl. It was REALLY dry. Biographical dry. Lacking in everything I usually love about YA. I wanted this girl’s emotional journey. I wanted to connect with her, to live her successes, failures, and fears. She’s an amazing character and it’s all that more amazing because it was real. I want to BE her, not read ABOUT her.
I got facts instead of personalities. And that’s too bad. Nothing came to life to me. Not the characters, the setting (It’s 2 years after Mao’s death. China is a MESS, and we only get a reporter-like view of its pieces being put back together), the conflict, the plot. In truth, I think the story was just written by the wrong person (a journalist).
(It occurs to me that written as a futuristic fantasy, this story (with very little change other than a deeper POV) would do really well in the current YA Dystopian craze.)
In total, I enjoyed it. I’m glad I read it. It lacked punch. I wouldn’t read anything else YA by this author.
This is an amazing story of perseverance and dedication to art. Even though it meant three days and two nights of torturous travel on filthy trains crammed with people, eleven-year-old Li Zhongmei was determined to get to Beijing to audition for the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy. She knew she had a very small chance of getting in - the school accepted only 12 girls and 12 boys from the whole country. And once she reached Beijing she realized that many people looked down on her for being a country girl. Even when she had gained entry to the school, some of her teachers thought that such an education was a waste on a country girl who would never amount to anything.
Li Zhongmei proved them wrong.
This is an inspiring true story of how one girl's love for ballet propelled her through an agonizing first year at the Beijing Dance Academy. She went on to become the best at the school and eventually became a professional dancer, touring Asia and settling in the United States. Although the writing is stilted and awkward in places, the plucky protagonist and the rags-to-riches story more than make up for it. Hand this to your young dancers and thespians.
This is a story likely to have wide appeal among the performance-minded and I'd recommend it to middle grade readers and teens both.
I loved this book, but had a few reservations about it. It was a very compelling story, with a very good amount of detail, but the ending was rushed and I was left wanting more. I wanted to walk with Zonghmei through all eight of her years at the Dance Academy, because while it was nice to be told things got better for her, I would have rather read the how instead.
The author writes from experience here but I won't tell the reason why because it was fun to discover it by accident as the book wrapped up. A great book for any future prima ballerinas out there.