A Heart for Freedom

A Heart for Freedom: The Remarkable Journey of a Young Dissident, Her Daring Escape, and Her Ongoing Quest to Bring Justice to ChinaA Heart for Freedom: The Remarkable Journey of a Young Dissident, Her Daring Escape, and Her Ongoing Quest to Bring Justice to China by Chai Ling
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As a part of thee 2017 reading challenge that I’m working through, I am being challenged to read books outside of my normal reading genres. I was looking for a book on a current event to read, and I realized that I had something that qualified already in my Kindle cloud. So, I began to read Chai Ling’s A Heart for Freedom.

This book is a memoir. I am interested in gendercide, forced abortions and choosing life. Chai is the founder and head of All Girls Allowed, an organization dedicated to helping women in China to choose life in the face of government restrictions and pressure to abort female babies. To me, this is an admirable organization because no woman should be forced to end the life of a child against her will. I think they do a great work, and I hope they continue their work, even in the face of a China where the one child policy has been phased out in favor of a two child policy. (It is debatable whether this easement in in the one child policy will affect the culture of forced abortion. I will be interested in seeing the research on this in coming years.)

So, with that in mind, and my interests in mind, I was prepared to like this book. Then, I found that Chai’s work in gendercide is not even mentioned until the last three or four chapters (of an approximately 30 chapter book). Instead, this is Chai Ling’s entire life story. It begins with her childhood, goes through the events in Tiananmen Square and the student protest movement in great detail, and then goes through the events of her life as she comes to the place where she is now.

I was a child when the Tiananmen Square protests occurred and other than the image of a giant tank and red flags, I do not remember much. I was not even sure why the students protested. Even after reading this book, I still am not sure why there were student protests. It was just so disorganized, the protests were so varied and the goals were so unclear that I really can not say what profit these protests would have had anyway. I wonder if perhaps I need to read a few more books about the protests to even understand what they were really about. Because of my lack of clarity in this, I had a hard time following the book through this part and almost put it down unfinished. It does not help that Chai speaks to the reader as if they know the whole story and spends time refuting other accounts of the story as part of her personal memoir. That refutation always makes me feel distrust for a narrator, and gave me a feeling of slight dislike for Chai.

I also found that I felt like she was a person who didn’t really take responsibility for the actions in her life. Instead of having clear principles, she drifted into this and that. She was driven by her desire to prove herself to her father until love caused her to drift into a leadership position in the student protests. I was never certain whether Chai was protesting for China or to please her husband. Still, she was incredibly interesting, and she must have been determined because she made her new life in America work and brought her whole family to America. She heads an organization that fights gendercide. Surely, she is more in charge of her life than she sees herself or portrays herself.

As an evangelical Christian, I did want to take a moment to note that I was a little dismayed by Chai’s perception and understanding of the gospel as portrayed in this book. I would not want it to be someone’s first (or even 100th) exposure to the gospel because Chai is simply wrong in many of the concepts that she discusses. This reason alone would probably be enough for me to not recommend the book to others, but my mistrust of her as a narrator and the distance I feel where I never really connected with Chai emotionally make this a below average book.

View all my reviews on Goodreads!  What’s my next read?  My next read is going to be a book that my mother loves so much that she bought for me, Redemption by Karen Kingsbury.  It’s going to be my A Book Recommended by a Family Member for the #vtReadingChallenge.


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