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Authors: Adeline Yen Mah

Chinese Cinderella

BOOK: Chinese Cinderella
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Some reviews for
Chinese Cinderella

Chinese Cinderella
has touched the hearts of many readers throughout the world, as you will see from the messages below:

Chinese Cinderella
has to be the saddest, most moving story that I have ever known to exist. Not only did it touch me but it made me open my eyes and realize something that made me angry. How could anyone treat another human being in such a way?’ – Rachel (Singapore)

‘I thought I was the only one with a family that did not like me very much and I was always treated like I was not really their daughter. But
Chinese Cinderella
gave me hope and the power to know I could succeed at anything I put my mind to’ – Alyssa (USA)

‘I have read
Chinese Cinderella
many times. I have never cried so much in a book. I have learnt so much about things that happened in China and how life in China is so different to life in England’ – Kasie (England)

‘I feel really lucky and really thankful that I have the family that I do. This is the best book I have ever read’ – Bronti (Australia)

‘Your experiences make all of my problems seem so small, and it makes me grateful and appreciative of my family who love and care for me’ – Annemarie (Malta)

‘This is one book I will never forget in my life. Yen Jun‐ling, you are the real Chinese Cinderella’ – Kavin (India)

Books by Adeline Yen Mah

Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society

For adults

Falling Leaves


Chinese Cinderella

The Secret Story of an Unwanted Daughter

Adeline Yen Mah’s family considered her to be bad luck because her mother died giving birth to her. They discriminated against her and made her feel unwanted all her life. After the death of her stepmother in 1990, she felt compelled to write her story.

Falling Leaves
became an international bestseller, and has been translated into many different languages. Drawing on her childhood as described in the early part of
Falling Leaves
, this book is the true story of Adeline Yen Mah’s childhood up to the age of fourteen.


Chinese Cinderella



Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)

Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)

Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi -110 017, India

Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)

Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published in Australia by Penguin Books Ltd 1999

Published in Puffin Books 1999

Published in Puffin Modern Classics 2009

Copyright © Adeline Yen Mah 1999 1999 2009

All rights reserved.

The moral right of the author has been asserted

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re‐sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

ISBN: 978-0-141-93381-8

Dedicated to all unwanted children

I have always cherished this dream of creating something unique and imperishable, so that the past should not fade away forever. I know one day I shall die and vanish into the void, but hope to preserve my memories through my writing. Perhaps others who were also unwanted may see them a hundred years from now, and be encouraged. I imagine them opening the pages of my book and meeting me (as a ten‐year‐old) in Shanghai, without actually having left their own homes in Sydney, Tokyo, London, Hong Kong or Los Angeles. And I shall welcome each and every one of them with a smile and say, ‘How splendid of you to visit me! Come in and let me share with you my story . . . because I understand only too well the rankling in your heart and what you are going through.’


To my husband, Bob:
for putting up with me and for always being there for me

To my children, Roger and Ann, and my nephew, Gary:
for being proud of me

To my editor, Erica Wagner:
for her patient and skilful guidance

To my publisher, Bob Sessions:
for his belief in me

For all of us to get along during this new millennium we must
understand each other’s history, language and culture.
Towards that end I am donating all royalties from
Chinese Cinderella
to a foundation modelled
after the Rhodes Scholarship programme to enable students
to study at universities in Beijing and Shanghai.


by Julia Eccleshare

Puffin Modern Classics series editor

To be unloved by your parents is one of the harshest fates for a child and Adeline Yen Mah reveals the pain of her early years poignantly. Born to wealthy Chinese parents living a very comfortable life before the Communist revolution, Adeline’s childhood should have been a happy one. But, tragically, her mother died giving birth to her and, through no fault of her own, she was therefore branded as the bringer of misfortune by her father and older siblings. Worse is to follow when her father remarries. Already badly treated by her original family, Adeline now has a stepmother who detests her and she has to suffer the torment of seeing her younger stepbrother and stepsister being petted and treated while she is neglected. For a while, Adeline is protected by her adored aunt and grandfather, but her stepmother’s hatred of her grows; she is torn away from everything she loves and is sent off to boarding‐school where her loss of self‐confidence brings her to the edge of depression.

Given the facts, this could be a story full of self‐pity but Adeline has an irrepressible spirit and the gift of great intelligence. The result is that she gives an account of her life which is full of moments of happiness and triumph against adversity as much as it is a catalogue of despair. Adeline’s shining personality bounds so strongly off the page that you are sure that you know her. Her predicaments – especially how she tries to keep her miserable home life a secret from her friends at school – are easy to identify with and, along with her, readers will find their hearts in their mouths that in everything she does she might be found out at any moment by her stepmother.

Chinese Cinderella
is an inspiring battle cry to all children: keep your dreams alive as that is the only way to counter adversity!

Author’s Note
1       Top of the Class
2       A Tianjin Family
3       Nai Nai’s Bound Feet
4       Life in Tianjin
5       Arrival in Shanghai
6       First Day at School
7       Family Reunion
8       Tram Fare
9       Chinese New Year
10     Shanghai School Days
11     PLT
12     Big Sister’s Wedding
13     A Birthday Party
14     Class President
15     Boarding-school in Tianjin
16     Hong Kong
17     Boarding-school in Hong Kong
18     Miserable Sunday
19     End of Term
20     Pneumonia
21     Play-writing Competition
22     Letter from Aunt Baba
The Story of Ye
The Original Chinese Cinderella
Historical Note


Chinese Cinderella
is my autobiography. It was difficult and painful to write but I felt compelled to do so. Though mine is but a simple, personal tale of my childhood, please do not underestimate the power of such stories. In one way or another, every one of us has been shaped and moulded by the stories we have read and absorbed in the past. All stories, including fairy‐tales, present elemental truths which can sometimes permeate your inner life and become part of you.

The fact that this story is true may hold special appeal. Today, the world is a very different place. Though many Chinese parents still prefer sons, daughters are not so much despised. But the real things have not changed. It is still important to be truthful and loyal; to do the best you can; to make the most of your talents; to be happy with the simple things in life; and to believe deep down that you will ultimately triumph if you try hard enough to prove your worth.

BOOK: Chinese Cinderella
6.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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