Every once in a while, I find a book on my shelf which I had forgotten about for a couple of decades. After those not-too-light-reading texts by Friedman and Chomsky, I skimmed for something less taxing. My eye settled on a red-covered memoir signed by the author in 1995, Eva Diao’s My Years in Communist China. Mrs Diao was probably in her late 60’s at the time. We lived in Alexandria, Va, where we met. She had published her memoir two years earlier. She knew that I was interested in history.
I had read portions of the book, but never completed a cover-to-cover read at one time. Mrs. Diao starts with her early recollections of growing up in China in the 1930’s. Being the daughter of a well-to-do family, she had the opportunity to come to the USA in the late 1940’s for her college education.
Mrs. Diao provided a brief history of Chinese history to prepare the reader for understanding how Chairman Mao came to power and how the communist government influenced college students studying over-seas. She and her future husband, Dick Diao, both returned to China with dedication and enthusiasm to help build their homeland.
While Mrs. Diao continued to feel patriotism for China, as the various campaigns for political control occurred in the 1950’s, she and her husband came to realize that the egalitarian ideals had little to do with how politics and economics actually happened. She gives detailed accounts of they, their children, their friends, and their co-workers were treated during each purge of those identified as enemies of the state. After more than a decade living in communist China, they found a way to escape, via Hong Kong, back to the USA.
While many other accounts of the history in China though the Communist Revolution (and transformation in a centrally controlled capitalist economy) exist, providing the broader perspective, Mrs.’s Diao memoir provide a personal history in the context of world events.
Her memoir is no longer in print. You can find used copies on the Internet… or stop by and visit. I’ll have it on the Reference shelf.