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The Crystal Monkey by Patrick Nohrden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Source: Received to Review
Genre: Historical Fiction
Book Description: Little Min Li believes she lives in the world’s greatest nation until the Red Guards terrorize her village. And when her father sells her crystal monkey to buy alcohol, Min Li loses much more than a beloved toy. As she grows up, Min Li must rediscover her hope and courage in order to achieve her greatest dreams. This true-life story will capture your heart!
My thoughts: I love when a book feels like it takes me to a different time and place. This book took me to China just after the Communists took over. I saw the life of the peasant class through the eyes of Min Li. I watched as unfair punishments were handed down to humble the people and keep them in line. I saw how a young girl loved her country and then realized that the propaganda wasn't all that it was played up to be.
Even though this book is a work of fiction, it felt authentic. It was hard to read about a village being exposed to executions. It was hard to read about some of the experiences that Min Li endured. It was hard to read about the dominance of men in the home. While they were hard things to read about, they were important to the story and the transformation of a child to a young woman who realizes the problems with her government.
This book is a great coming of age story. It contains violence and near rape that is not graphic.
About the Author: Originally from Santa Cruz, California, Patrick Nohrden left high school early in order to join the Army. After serving in various assignments throughout the U.S. and Europe, he returned to America and to school, earning a B.A. in English with Great Distinction from San Jose State University where he won two Phelan Literary Awards. Later, he obtained his law degree from the University of Akron and practiced law in Las Vegas, Nevada. Growing disillusioned with the law, after twelve years he gave up his law practice and moved to Northeast China where he taught conversational English at Bohai University. There, he fell in love with the Chinese people and has been an avid scholar of Chinese culture and history ever since, focusing his attention on modern educational systems and the era known as the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
Returning to the United States, Patrick Nohrden obtained his teaching license and earned a Master of Arts degree in Teaching Secondary English from Sierra Nevada College and taught public school in Las Vegas for three years venturing overseas again. He taught British Literature and Speech in Kuwait for a year where he met his Chinese wife, Limin, his inspiration for the character Min Li in The Crystal Monkey. A year later they were married in China, and he spent the next two years teaching English Literature in a special Canadian Program in Zhengzhou and was named Teacher of the Year. Now living in Reno, Nevada, with Limin, Patrick Nohrden teaches English and publications for a local high school.
An expert in modern Chinese culture, Patrick Nohrden has published more than thirty articles on China, as well as numerous articles on the Middle East, Russia, and methods of teaching English.