Denise Chong has built an award-winning career capturing ordinary people living extraordinary lives. The Concubine’s Children (1994) told of her own family’s fractured journey from China to Canada and The Girl in the Picture (2000) detailed the harrowing story of the young girl whose screaming, naked image became a devastating symbol of the Vietnam War.
In her latest book, Egg on Mao: The Story of an Ordinary Man Who Defaced an Icon and Unmasked a Dictatorship, Chong bears witness to the life of a Chinese bus mechanic who risked everything in an effort to change his country’s repressive regime.
On June 4, 2009, three friends – Lu Decheng, Yu Zhijian, and Yu Dongyue – were reunited in Washington, DC, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. All three had spent the majority of the past two decades in scattered prisons, united by a single pledge to each another: “I must leave this prison alive and with my sanity.” Those of us fortunate enough to live in a free country can hardly comprehend that throwing paint-filled eggs on a poster could result in endless years of subhuman imprisonment.
Part biography, part history, part testimony, Egg on Mao closely follows the story of Lu Decheng, one of the three reunited friends. Chong weaves together several narrative strands: Lu’s early life in his riverside village in Hunan Province (modestly famous as the birthplace of fireworks); his fateful act of political protest during a pivotal moment in modern history that traps him in the Chinese prison system; and his subsequent survival and release, with his humanity somehow intact.
Growing up under a crushing Communist system that remained unchallenged even after Mao’s 1976 death, Lu was mostly raised by his beloved grandmother. Officially classified as a “martyr’s widow,” which accorded her certain privileges under the fickle regime, Grandmother Lu repeatedly emphasized the need for people to maintain the ability to “think for themselves.” Her dangerous but truthful talk of high-ranking thievery, deceit, and execution shaped Lu’s defiant views. …[click here for more]