“Chinese Cinderella” Is a Real Life Fairy Tale
While we’re mostly familiar with the Disney version of the 17th century European folk tale, the earliest version of Cinderella was undoubtedly Chinese, appearing a millennia before the original Neapolitan story. So it’s more than appropriate that when New York Times Bestselling author Adeline Yen Mah went to write an abridged version of her autobiography, Falling Leaves, she chose to invoke the classic fairy tale of a young girl’s triumph over abuse and adversity.
Chinese Cinderella and The Diary of Ann Frank were the only non-fiction books I read before entering high school. They provided prospective, not just in appreciating my own relative blessings, but also by being an introductory step into understanding different cultures and how one is so heavily shaped by circumstance.
While Mah certainly doesn’t spare her young audience the details of her stepmother’s petty vendetta against her or her own family’s unsympathetic treatment of her as the “unlucky” child who killed her mother, she only offers glimpses of the effects of the Chinese Civil War and WWII as Mah, only a child herself at the time, saw it.
Chinese Cinderella comes over as very genuine and reflects the changes in Chinese culture and its people, as well as the sometimes insurmountable obstacle of tradition.