Mao's Last Dancer
Penguin, 2003. A trade paperback copy in very good condition.
The true story of a poor Chinese peasant boy who, plucked unsuspectingly at the age of ten from millions of others across the land to be trained as a ballet dancer, turned the situation to his advantage to become one of the world's greatest ballet stars. Li tells his story with charm and simplicity, with humour and compassion and at times with great drama. His childhood is drawn, despite the terrible hardships, with love and affection, as we share in the lives of Li and his large family. This contrasts starkly with the seven lonely years of gruelling training at the Peking Dance Academy, and more starkly again when Li is selected, at age 18, to perform at the Houston Ballet's summer school which led to a dramatic defection. He could never return to his family and his courage in the face of extreme loneliness, his determination to succeed and his commitment and self-discipline make an awesome, inspiring and moving story that should speak to readers of all ages everywhere.
Winner of Nielsen BookData/ABA Book of the Year Award - Booksellers' Choice 2003.
Li Cunxin was born in 1961, in the New Village, Li Commune, near the city of Qingdao on the coast of north-east China. The sixth of seven sons in a poor rural family, Li's peasant life in Chairman Mao's communist China changed dramatically when, at the age of eleven, he was chosen by Madame Mao's cultural advisers to become a student at the Beijing Dance Academy. After a summer school in America, for which he was one of only two students chosen, he defected to the West and became a principal dancer for the Housten Ballet. Li went on to become one of the best male dancers in the world. He is now a senior manager in a major stockbroking firm and lives in Melbourne, Australia, with his wife Mary and their three children, Sophie, Tom and Bridie. Li's autobiography, Mao's Last Dancer has sold over 400,000 copies and has been published in over 20 countries. A children's version of the book was released in 2005.