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BookTuesday: A Heart for Freedom

Today's book comes from Tyndale Publishers, who graciously provided me a nice, hardcover book in exchange for the review.

It's called A Heart for Freedom and authored by Chai Ling. Here's the cover:

A Heart for Freedom: The Remarkable Journey of a Young Dissident, Her Daring Escape, and Her Quest to Free China's Daughters

I remember being in Junior High school during the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in Beijing in 1989. At the time, I didn't know what to make of the whole thing: I knew China was a country dominated by communism, but what do you make of people that just won't go to work, school, or whatever and hang around and protest? Besides, if they were really that oppressed, how do they know about freedom and where's the news coming from?

All that changed in early June when the news carried video of tanks and soldiers clearing Tiananmen Square. As a middle-class American kid, I had harbored doubts about people that didn't go home when their parents or the police told them to…I was, after all, 12. Yet when I saw that what these people were protesting was a government that used armor and infantry against signs and megaphones, that sealed in my mind that the protester were right, and they deserved to be added to the colonists of Lexington, Concord, and Boston.

But freedom didn't come to China in those months. I remember the breakdown of communist control in Poland, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and German reunification. Yet China didn't change.

I've wondered, off and on through the years, what happened to the people involved. Not having studied much about it, I've never known names.

Until now.

After reading this book, I've learned a few names. The author mentions them, because she was there. She also mentions some of the information about what happened to the students and others involved in the protesting. And had this book been only a memoir of the events leading up to Jun 4, 1989, it would be a worthwhile read. For every one of us who wants to protest filling out an extra form to buy a gun, for every person who thinks the government is the solution to our problems, for every person who wants to dismantle the American system, that book needs to be read: in Tiananmen, there was something to fight for, something to die for, something to rise up and remove.

Yet this book is not that memoir. Certainly, a great deal of space is dedicated to the events of that year. I can see two reasons for that: 1. It will help sell the book; 2. Those events were key in Chai Ling's life. Her plans, her future, and her present life were destroyed that day. What she became had to change, between the protests, the violence, and the time in hiding before fleeing China.

This book, though, is about more than these things. It starts with her life as a young child, how she was raised, what she was taught. Her writing puts a human view on China: this is not a faceless, evil land. It is a land of many people, most compassionate, loving, and just trying to survive and raise families. The evil is not the people at large, but the system and those it has empowered.

Further, this book follows Chai Ling's life since Tiananmen, her coming to America and becoming a successful business woman. Her finding happiness in marriage. And, at the pinnacle, her coming to faith in Jesus Christ.

The book then works through how she is striving to live out that faith when combined with her love of China and the people there. She speaks of her work on behalf of the women of China, and the activism that has led to her being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. (I would also assume that her commitment to non-violence at Tiananmen is involved in that nomination as well: here is one who did something for peace by doing nothing.)

What can I say about this book?

That it should be read. My daughters will be expected to read this book in the coming years. I want them to see an important picture: a woman who stood for what is right and continues to do so. They expect to see that in their mother, but I want them to see that there is a world out there where evil abounds, but people rise up against it just the same. I want them to have heroes who are real, who have struggled, but who are working to overcome. And those heroes don't have to all have the same last name as they do.

I urge you to read this book.

I would also urge you to check out http://www.allgirlsallowed.org which is the website for Chai Ling's efforts on behalf of Chinese girls and women.

Doug

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