Living Treasures

Yang Huang
Harvard Square Editions (2014)
ISBN 9780989596053
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (03/16)

“Living Treasures” by Yang Huang is a moving story about Gu Bao, a young girl who grows up to be a law student at a Chinese university during a turbulent time in Chinese history. The year is 1989, around the time of the Tiananmen Square protest, when Bao falls in love with Tong, a young soldier. Though Bao risks expulsion for having relations of any kind, and Tong could lose his position in the military for dating a student, both throw caution to the wind, ruled by their passion for one another.

Bao’s mother realizes her daughter is pregnant and takes steps to help her daughter before anyone finds out. Bao and Tong are very much against the drastic measures Bao’s family wants to take to “fix” the problem, but basically have no say in the matter. Afterwards, Bao is sent to stay with her grandparents at their home in the Sichuan mountain countryside, to spend a month to heal, both physically and mentally, from her ordeal. While exploring the countryside Bao meets and befriends an expectant young mother, named Orchid. Orchid and her husband Candor already have a child, three year old, Daisy, however, because of the one-child law in China; Orchid must hide out from the enforcers of this law, who narrow-mindedly perform unsafe abortions and sterilizations.

I found “Living Treasures” by Yang Huang to be an incredibly well rounded story. It is full of relevant societal struggles, political aspects surrounding some of the most important events in the history of China, the trials and tribulations of young romance, and coming of age drama. While the writing is a bit geared towards the young adult crowd, the substantial depth of many of the issues in the plot makes it an educational, enlightening, and heartfelt read for any age group.

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