cover image Red Memory: The Afterlives of China’s Cultural Revolution

Red Memory: The Afterlives of China’s Cultural Revolution

Tania Branigan. Norton, $29.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-324-05195-4

Journalist Branigan debuts with a visceral history of the Cultural Revolution and a probing look at how the modern-day Chinese Communist Party has sought to erase this chapter from its past. Lasting from 1966 to 1976, the upheaval saw children condemning their parents for “thoughtcrimes,” and students, some as young as 13 or 14, attacking and murdering their teachers. As many as two million people were killed. Young reactionaries, who called themselves Red Guards, perpetrated these atrocities to glorify the teachings of Chairman Mao Zedong, who used the tidal wave of violence to strengthen his leadership position and silence domestic critics. The chaos touched almost every Chinese family, including that of current president Xi Jinping, who “was exiled to a long stretch of bleak rural poverty” after his father was persecuted by Chairman Mao. Though the Cultural Revolution was declared a historical catastrophe in 1981, no one was held responsible and there was no closure for the victims. Drawing on fascinating and often wrenching interviews with victims and perpetrators, Branigan reveals the speed with which “beatings and deaths became commonplace” and makes a persuasive case that the period is an unresolved national trauma lying just beneath the surface of modern China. This is essential reading for China watchers. (May)