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Falling Leaves: The True Story of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter [Paperback]

Adeline Yen Mah
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (170 customer reviews)

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Book Description

20 May 1999
Born in 1937 in a port city a thousand miles north of Shanghai, Adeline Yen Mah was the youngest child of an affluent Chinese family who enjoyed rare privileges during a time of political and cultural upheaval. But wealth and position could not shield Adeline from a childhood of appalling emotional abuse at the hands of a cruel and manipulative Eurasian stepmother. Determined to survive through her enduring faith in family unity, Adeline struggled for independence as she moved from Hong Kong to England and eventually to the United States to become a physician and writer.

A compelling, painful, and ultimately triumphant story of a girl's journey into adulthood, Adeline's story is a testament to the most basic of human needs: acceptance, love, and understanding. With a powerful voice that speaks of the harsh realities of growing up female in a family and society that kept girls in emotional chains, Falling Leaves is a work of heartfelt intimacy and a rare authentic portrait of twentieth-century China.

Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (20 May 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767903579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767903578
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 13.5 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (170 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 689,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


"FALLING LEAVES, Yen Mah's first book, reads as a fresh and haunting account of a childhood that nearly paralyzed its author for life."--The Sunday Oregonian -- The Sunday Oregonian

"It's hard not to admire her [Mah's] persistence and perseverance..."--The New York Times Book Review -- The New York Times Book Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Author

Response from readers has exceeded my wildest dreams
For the first fourteen years of my life, I don't recall having opened my mouth once to volunteer a single spontaneous remark during any of the meal times I shared with my parents. Everything I repressed and dared not say as a child growing up in Shanghai is in Falling Leaves. I wrote it on behalf of all unwanted children in the hope that they will persist to do their best in the face of hopelessness, to believe that in the end their spirit will prevail, to transcend their abuse and transform it into a source of courage, creativity and compassion. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
At the age of three my grand aunt proclaimed her independence by categorically refusing to have her feet bound, resolutely tearing off the bandages as fast as they were applied. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very moving 6 Nov 2000
By A Customer
Hi! My names Alice and I'm 13 years old.......i live in Suffolk in England and recently when I went camping with family friends I read Chinese Cinderella and was very moved. I wanted to know what happened to Adeline Yan Mai after she went to the English Collage and so read Falling Leaves it is an amazing,powerful book that is well worth a read. I promise you will never take your loving family for granted again after you've read the story of a struggle for an unwanted child. This book is the story of one very courageous woman.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read 19 Nov 2003
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was browsing the site and I came upon this book which I read about 2 years ago. As soon as I saw the title I felt that I really should write a review because it was such an emotional experience reading this book. The author takes us through the death of her mother soon after her birth (the child being deemed a token of bad luck in China), the effect this had on her family relations and also the effect her father's subsequent marriage had on the family. You will tear your hair out with frustration because you want Adeleine to seek revenge on the family that treated her so badly. But for me the most important message in this book lies in the fact that rather than seek revenge she instead channelled her energy into putting together this well written account of her life. This book is full of lessons and different people will extract different things from it. It is definitely worth a read though if only to get an insight into a wealthy, yet emotionally bereft family living in China in the latter half of the 20th century. I would also recommend "Watching the tree" by the same author which deals with a lot of the Chinese philosophies raised in this book.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
I've read both books 'Chinese Cinderella' and'Falling Leaves' by Adeline Yen Mah. Although I read Chinese history,especially from the period of the beginning of the Ching Dynasty until its vanquish at the hands of anti-Imperial forces with the coming into being of the Republic of China under Dr Sun Yat Sen,and then through to the period of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s until the beginning of economic reforms in the 1970s,I am always captivated by autobiographical accounts of the lives of individuals,usually members of what one would call the Chinese diaspora, like that of Adeline Yen Mah.Reason:They usually tell you of their hardended views when expressing lives in China under the Communists in the early years, and their changed views(like that of Adeline ) of China today.
It has also proven that a changed environment - from a troubled China to Hong Kong and to UK and USA - has not changed,at least in attitude and thoughts, or much of them,anyway, in the Chineseness of a Chinese,wherever he or she may be.Forget the reason.Look at the number of trips she made back to China to see Aunt Baba and sister Lydia.
Of course, the author has made Falling Leaves even more interesting by talking about herself and family members,especially her stepmother.Even being Communist does not mean you are not interested in a lot of wealth.Having a lot of personal wealth doesn't mean you're not interested in some more. There is a trait in individuals that cannot change wherever you may be.
Most of all, Adeline's English is so good and she can really tell a story well so that when you pick up her book it is a page-turner to the end.Which was my own experience when I read after dinner till 3 in the morning!
S C Chan
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Parisa Diba's review on Falling Leaves 21 April 2005
By Parisa
My god, what an amazing book! From chapter 4 onwards I struggled to hold back my tears and felt thousands of needles piercing my heart when I read about Adeline's Niang slapping her ferociously because her friends wanted to celebrate their success. What made terribly sad was the way her siblings excluded her and her father who constantly ignored her. This is amazing book by someone who suffered throughout her childhood and overcame all obstacles to emerge triumphant. Adeline Yen Mah is an inspiration to thousands who have step-mothers and the best advice I can give you is to not only read Falling Leaves, but all the books she has written.
By Parisa diba Age 14
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic book, somewhat charged with emotion. 27 Aug 2001
By A Customer
After reading Adeline Yen Mah's re-written best-seller of 'Falling Leaves'-'Chinese Cinderella', I had to pick up a copy of this book. It is a heart-rendering tale, of what it was like being an unwanted, young Chinese girl, living in a livid constant fear of shame, disappointment and a seclusion of darkness in China during the Civil war. It is both amazing and shocking, to find this has actually took place in real-life, and is phenomenal to hear that Adeline has actually survived all of the goings-on of her traumatic past, emerging victorious and sure . Not only does this book unfold the painful tragedy of loneliness and fear, but it also gives an extremely deep insight of what went on in China. Adeline struggles for acceptance, as an illuminating a tale of humiliating and horrific abuse, leaps from every page, to which opens my eyes to see the determination of Adeline, able to survive and succeed. That is why I give this book an enduring five stars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars doesn't leave your mind for days... 3 Aug 1999
By A Customer
This is truly an excellent read, both as memoirs and the writing and prose. Niang and her cruelty captivated my mind; this woman really existed, she really did these things. It's mind numbing to think a person is capable of doing that to a little girl, more importantly it makes me wonder what happened in her life to make her cruel, even when she was so young and first stepped into the picture at age 23. I want to read Niang's memoirs! I also wondered, as probably Adeline has wondered many times herself, what Adeline would be like if she had had a different, loving stepmother. This story of this one woman emphasized the impact someone's parents - Adeline no doubt will have scars on her spirit even when she is a very old woman put there many years ago by Niang at a tender age. Sorry, I didn't mean for this to be so long winded - but this book is most certainly worth reading.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 3 days ago by Evilo
4.0 out of 5 stars This is an easy to read family's story at a tumultuous time in ...
This is an easy to read family's story at a tumultuous time in China's history. The hardships of the family members and their domestic politics, at times, leave little to be... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Alexander Potter
4.0 out of 5 stars Falling Leaves
Really enjoyed reading this account off a young girls childhood and the
different culture.Memories off my own childhood and how I was loved
by my parents and brothers was... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Adelena Hampson
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting despite the self-pity
A couple of years ago I had fifty-two unread books by my bed with at least three more coming in monthly. I have now read my way down to only seven, yay! Read more
Published 6 months ago by Bobbie
4.0 out of 5 stars Get the hanky out
Very sad story but not as good as Wild Swans. I felt it finished too soon and lots of factors were left unresolved.
Published 9 months ago by Vanessa Road
3.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating
Why this girl put up with her awful family I have no idea! Even once she became well off and independent, her dreadful, dreadful step mother was vile to her. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Ellecantere
5.0 out of 5 stars FALLING LEAVES
Autobiographical book of a Chinese lady who survived family rejection and sibling rivalry to become successful as a doctor and as a wife and mother. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Sandra Heard
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
Very poorly written got bored very quickly so gave up reading about half way through the book maybe it was just too easy to read for me a bit Mills and Boon
Published 12 months ago by MRS MELANIE JAMES
4.0 out of 5 stars Most impressed with the speed of the delivery, thank you
Ordered the book for my mum, as she has the sequel. She is keeping it to read on her upcoming holiday
Published 12 months ago by vanessa price
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
I really enjoyed this book. The story flowed well and the characters were well described. I would recommend it to anyone who likes a good story
Published 13 months ago by Gran
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