Falling Leaves


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As a side note: While this certainly wasn't the most amazing book I've ever read, I'm a little concerned at some of the reviews that depict the author as whiny and spoiled for wanting tram fare to go the mile and a half to school. In addition, it's a bit of a reach to say she was whiny in general. If you think any type of behavior aside from psychopathy under the age of 13 the age at which she's sent away to boarding school , especially when said child is earning straight A's and winning writing contests, earns a child the abuse she endured, you're absolutely nuts.

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I actually wonder if people are thinking she's older in parts of the book than she actually was. And again - whiny because when her friends gave her a surprise party for winning class president, she got a bloody nose and all of her friends were sent home? She was TEN. I don't think anyone can argue that this family is ridiculously dysfunctional, with Niang being the sort of psychopathic mastermind behind all of it.

The siblings' behavior isn't "mean" in the typical sense, but they were trained to be manipulative, demeaning, and disgusting.

Basically, a "Lord of the Flies" situation. Again, sort of scary people think that this is normal. My brother and I weren't friends growing up, but he never was cruel or. Jul 02, Amber Karnes rated it really liked it Recommends it for: anyone interested in Chinese culture, those who like memoirs. Shelves: memoirs , asia , women , books-i-own. You know those books you can't put down? This was one of em for me. I was mesmerized by the cruelty the author was subjected to by her own family in this quite depressing account of a child's life, and somehow I still left with a positive impression.

She didn't slam her family or say anything hurtful about them which they MORE than deserved , she just presented her memories and the memories of her siblings as laid out facts. This is what happened to me. She's more courageous than I would have b You know those books you can't put down? She's more courageous than I would have been.

I was so happy in the end when she finally met her match and was able to make peace as much as can be expected with what was left after her parents died. Dec 27, Ruth rated it it was ok Shelves: history-and-biography. I don't like to be negative about stories like this--hard childhoods.

As a book, it is okay. Well written, some good descriptions. The author is about the same age as my mother, and this gave a context for me. She grew up as a miserable rich girl in Hong Kong. Read it yourself if you want to. My negative point of view is that I find children who keep chasing their parents' love and approval annoying. This is nothing against Ms. Yen Mah, she really survived a lot of rejection, lousy marriage, etc.

Yen Mah, she really survived a lot of rejection, lousy marriage, etc.. But I just don't enjoy the victim narratives. It reminded me in some weird way, of the autobio of Robin Quivers I read decades ago I remember the same annoyance in the way she kept engaging with her realatives, who, by her own account, were bad people. I'm sure it is not so simple, but that doesn't make me love the book. There is also a tiny dig in the way she gets rich due to payment scales in medicare legislation creating a "bonanza" for her.

She mentions how patients don't know the cost of services, as if this is a good thing since she can keep getting paid more. Mar 17, Laura rated it liked it. I was excited to read this book. Now that I'm finished, I'm a little flummoxed as to my reaction. So I review it through two different lenses.

Whenever I read memoirs, I look at them in terms of "this is someone's life story, it's not going to fit a traditional book story narrative" and then I do think of it in terms of a standard narrative. Memoirs are a unique mix of these perspectives. First, as a memoir, it's excellent. Her recall of detail, clearly aided by her siblings' memory and supplemen I was excited to read this book. Her recall of detail, clearly aided by her siblings' memory and supplemented with description the context of world events, is sharp and paints an amazing picture.

Her use of language--including original Chinese sayings--is precise, evocative, and moving. The timeline sometimes jumps back and forth a bit, but that's to be expected in a book that ties together a lot of threads. Second, as a book, it's a little weaker. The narrative at times seemed very matter-of-fact, and at other times seems to manipulate the reader into constantly feeling sorry for the author.

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The recital of her feelings seemed somewhat robotic instead of moving in places. And, in the end, there was no final overcoming, no challenge truly met. It just kind of stopped. Overall, I do recommend the book for an insightful and moving look at family dynamics in Chinese families. Mar 05, Danley Hu rated it it was ok. I picked this book out because I thought there could have been some connections I could have made with it, considering my heritage is also Chinese. This book was however a book that didn't quite capture any essence of true culture. It was more of a narrative about how the protagonist's childhood was horrid and negative.

A majority of the book was insignificant and I didn't really understand why I was reading this book. It didn't make a lot of sense to me. It was a book that, in ways, asked for p I picked this book out because I thought there could have been some connections I could have made with it, considering my heritage is also Chinese.

It was a book that, in ways, asked for pity points. It was a retell of her life and childhood, how she was picked on by her siblings and her stepmother was a witch. Within this novel is a retell of the protagonist's family and her own heritage. Some parts were well written. Parts that described her father and her siblings treatment towards her was well written.

However, besides that, i did feel as if the book lacked a lot of substance. I wouldn't recommend it. Nov 03, Rachel Blanchard rated it really liked it Recommends it for: Any girl who's ever felt marginalized because whe wasn't born a boy. Ever wonder what it would be like to grow up as the unwanted daughter? In Chinese culture, where people are ranked by sex, social status, and order of birth, the main character finds herself on the bottom of every measuring stick. Learn how she overcomes feelings of worthlessness, abandonment, and rejection to triumph over a culture that tries to kill her spirit simply because she was born a girl, the unwanted daughter of her father's least favorite wife.

Apr 11, Jim rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites. I probably would not have read this book if a friend hadn't given it to me before moving away to California. Thinking that it was a new book, I was surprised that it was published in , already more than 20 years ago.

It's her story of overcoming loneliness and despair resulting from a traumatic childhood. The backdrop of her youth is one of turmoil and revolutionary change I probably would not have read this book if a friend hadn't given it to me before moving away to California. The backdrop of her youth is one of turmoil and revolutionary changes, as China went through Japanese invasion followed by civil war and the takeover by the Communists under Mao in All that was of interest to me but what I really found riveting was this girl's desperate struggle and her final success in finding love and acceptance.

As the youngest daughter in her family and, also, because of her mother's death after her birth--and then her father's marriage to another woman, she became the unwanted daughter of the title. Her stepmother was cruel to her and indeed was manipulative of everyone around her. It wasn't just the stepmother, but all her older siblings who mistreated her while the father did almost nothing to help or protect her. If it wasn't for her aunt, I don't know what would have happened to her as her aunt showed her affection and gave her the encouragement she needed. Adeline must have been a brilliant girl because she was most successful at school.

Finally, she would get the chance to go to England to study medicine A most remarkable autobiography, heartrending at times, certainly unforgettable. Oct 01, Nicole rated it did not like it. Jun 29, Teresa rated it really liked it Shelves: memoir. I read this book in 3 days. I really admire the author's candor and honesty. Her life story is heartbreaking at times and the history of Shanghai, Tianjin and Hong Kong were brought to life to me through her story. Despite the cruelty she experienced, Adeline was always looking for acceptance and the best in other people.

For that alone, she is to be admired and yet others would admire her ability to have survived and succeeded in life academically and ultimately financially with so many obstacl I read this book in 3 days. For that alone, she is to be admired and yet others would admire her ability to have survived and succeeded in life academically and ultimately financially with so many obstacles to prevent her from doing so in her life.

I will remember her story for a long time. Jul 01, Ruth Bertram rated it it was amazing. I cried, I laughed like twice and I relived the injustices of being a small child albeit on a much smaller scale than the author. Must read for anyone and everyone.

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May 15, Jim rated it liked it Shelves: asia , biography-memoir , nonfiction. This book is by no means a feel-good memoir in almost any sense, as the dominating characterthe author's stepmotheris on a par with any evil character conjured in fables or by Disney. Few of the supporting cast are of much redeeming value as well, from the successful but weak father who lets his new wife control and destroy his family, to the siblings who scheme, plot, and connive. One aunt is a shining light of strong will and determination and kindness.

The children each react to oppress This book is by no means a feel-good memoir in almost any sense, as the dominating characterthe author's stepmotheris on a par with any evil character conjured in fables or by Disney. The children each react to oppression in different manners, but I was amazed by how they were able to be manipulated even when they saw what was happening. Although one must always take memoirs with a large dose of skepticism, Mah's recollections will put a chill into any reader.

But she was sent to college and received a good education as were most of her siblings , with much of the credit because of her own strong will though many times I was bothered by her inability to just tell her parents were they could go when she got older. The dad, as terrible as he could be, did seem to have a measure of love for his kids, even if he couldn't show it and bent to the will of his iron-willed evil but beautiful wife.

I cannot believe that this family would be a template for most Chinese families, even older and wealthy ones. Of course, these type of machinations can happen anywhere, but this account is often heartrending. I wanted to smack some heads, and say, "you don't treat your family this way. One of the best lines in the book, though, occurs when one of the sons, in school in Britain, decides he wants to become a professional bridge player and sends a note asking for permission, and his father sends back a telegrams stating only: "Why not become a pimp instead?

It is horrible and unnerving, and sad, that readers of these types of books have been so repeatedly duped. I hope not in this case, and all future ones. Jan 28, Stephen Gallup rated it liked it. I like the way the story is structured, with the bereaved family gathering in the lawyer's office to hear the reading of their father's will, followed by all the years of earlier events leading up to that moment, a second pass at describing it with more understanding, and then a few more years in which the family essentially winds down.

I marvel at the utterly evil parents portrayed here and their unspeakably callous treatment of innocent children, as well as the cruel manipulation that continues after everyone is grown. I'd thought Sean Wilsey's family was awful in Oh the Glory of it All , but apparently I just did not know how bad families can be. What I do not like about this one recalls the complaint several of my fellow ms critics at authonomy.

They're biased against it because they say there's too much tiresome summary: this happened, and then this happened, and so on. Naturally, when writing memoir, by definition one does have to deal with the sequence of events. The trick -- and what Adeline Yeh Mah does not do with sufficient success -- is to transform those events by interpreting them through the impressions, emotions, and thoughts both of the younger self living them and the older self now reflecting on them.

She does finally start giving shape to her motivations near the end, and says quite explicitly that, unlike the younger half-sister who broke away from their parents' control she always yearned for and did everything possible to win acceptance. However, most of the time she's holding back too much to get below the surface. That's a pity.

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I think she could have produced something far more devastating with just a little more guidance and feedback. Sep 07, Jai rated it really liked it. I started with Chinese Cinderella and fell in love with Adeline and her resilience. Falling Leaves is the adult version of the novel, and gives you an in depth explanation of everything.

The novel is beautiful, heartbreaking, and engulfs you as if you are just a painting on the w I started with Chinese Cinderella and fell in love with Adeline and her resilience. The novel is beautiful, heartbreaking, and engulfs you as if you are just a painting on the wall bearing witness. Despite the fact that the Mahs were just as dysfunctional as any other family, you really get a sense of the family traditions and religious practices that fold and encompass their personal values. It reminds me of the Mackenzie Phillips discussion about her own unspeakable horrors at the hands of her own father.

Love your enemies. She went through many realms of Hell with them, even after death, but came out a better person from it all. What more can one ask for from himself? Jan 27, Terry rated it liked it Shelves: non-fiction , memoir. Everyone is so abusive that you wonder why she keeps going back for more, but, then, isn't that always the way? It's easier to see when you're outside of the situation. The most poignant part of the book to me is when her brother finally says to her, "Your problem You wanted to believe that we all shared your dream of a united family.

Probably the hardest lesson for people to learn, isn't it? Though, as I said, every little detail of every up and down in her relationship with her various family membersdid get tiresome, the fact that she finally created a life for herself through her own determination is even more amazing, especially since she bore the brunt of the unrelenting abuse. The only thing that frustrates me is the passivity and neediness that negatively affects the author and her family members, and, in a way, her countrymen and countrywomen countrypeople? May 22, Jasmine rated it it was ok.

I wanted to like this book. It was a page turner but Mary Karr was right in her go to book about memoirs. Never write a memoir to get revenge and this seems like this was exactly what it was, revenge. What was this a history book? A tell all? A factual story of her life? A book about obtaining her fathers will? I couldn't tell. I couldn't tell the how writers feelings reflected her abuse, or if it was just a random journal. Some words and statements felt like a spew of hatred, others a longing I wanted to like this book.

Some words and statements felt like a spew of hatred, others a longing of acceptance. I found the fluency to be difficult too. Some days she loves her Niang some days she despised her It was like this with many of her family she included in her memoir. Every idea of hers and her reflections of her former life were all over the place. I did appreciate the cultural background of China and the revolution she provided in between her writings.

But overall this memoir lacked themes and was too jumbled for me to appreciate. I felt like I was reading a angry journal. Aug 30, Dorothy Weigand rated it really liked it. Let me be clear: I don't like memoirs. I read one by accident about two years ago, and I haven't been able to stop. I enjoy reading about people from cultures other than my own and Mrs. Mah is from a culture incredibly different, but one I am interested in.

I loved the way the story was told and I felt somewhat bad for Niang. I wondered if she wasn't abused emotionally as a child herself, with the way she treated her stepchildren and then her own. I wish we could have gotten a bit of Niang's sid Let me be clear: I don't like memoirs. I wish we could have gotten a bit of Niang's side of the story, too, however, this was fantastic the way it was. Especially since Adeline, Jun-ling, had no idea what it was she had even done. I didn't like Lydia's treatment of her in the end, remembering that Adeline had made the offer to give Tai-ling the same treatment, but was turned down by Lydia herself saying that Tai-ling was to be married.

Oh well. Oct 16, Laurie rated it did not like it. Spoiler Alert! I never felt any connection or deep sympathy buildup with Adeline Yen Mah. Apparently she did not have the best of chilhoods. Her brothers teased and hit her and her stepmother did hit her once, but was she sexually molested, locked in closets, sold down the river?

Book Review of Falling Leaves: Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter | Asia Society

Nooooo, she was well educated admittedly lonely , fed, clothed, and hospitalized when sick, sent abroad for more education, all on her father's dime! Then she has the nerve to say he didn't love her when she felt left Spoiler Alert! Then she has the nerve to say he didn't love her when she felt left out of the will!

Why should anyone expect to be left anything that is not yours to begin with is beyond me! Mar 17, Bechai Jalea rated it really liked it. Depression caught up with me while reading this book. I was already touched by its condensed version Chinese Cinderella and reading this book felt like rubbing in the "touchy feeling" even more.

My heart goes to Aunt Baba who survived being a spinster, a worker in a male-dominated labor force, and a victim of war. It's amazing how a person endures, and live through life amid utmost cruelty. Aug 04, Lezlee Hays rated it really liked it. Adeline Yen Mah's memoir is interesting from several vantage points: spanning her childhood in china, young adulthood in England and the remainder of her life in California, her story is one that lends great context to the pre-world war 2 china and it's transition to communism following the revolution. But her story is really about yearning for love and acceptance in an extremely difficult family and ultimately the will to survive and triumph.

Oct 19, JoAnna rated it really liked it Shelves: favorites. I was surprised I enjoyed this book as much as I did. It was a good story about personal resilience. It also highlighted how powerful the need to be loved and accepted is. I also enjoyed learning more about Chinese culture and history.

The author did a good job keeping it relevant to the story.


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Jul 03, Ayo rated it it was amazing. More detailed account than "A Chinese Cinderella". I skipped the earlier chapters because I already knew the story but I was happy to find that she got a bit of closure in her relationship with her dad. The book made me more grateful for the siblings I have. Readers also enjoyed. About Adeline Yen Mah. Adeline Yen Mah. Currently she divides her time between southern California and London. She is married to Professor Robert Mah and has two children.

Books by Adeline Yen Mah. Trivia About Falling Leaves: T No trivia or quizzes yet. Quotes from Falling Leaves: T Be a cold fish. I hurt no one. And no one can hurt me. Be smart. Study hard and be independent. I'm afraid the chances of your getting a dowry are slim. You must rely on yourself. No matter what else people may steal from you, they will never be able to take away your knowledge. The world is changing. You must make your own life outside this home. Welcome back. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account. Prices do not include taxes.

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