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Falling Leavers

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Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah is a biography and memoir of a young Chinese girl who grew up in a world of unfathomable torture and violation of her rights as a teenager. The 79-year-old author attended Hong Kong's Sacred Heart Canossian College and London's The London Hospital Medical School. She now divides her time between London, England, and California, California. Dr. Adeline Yen Mah is a physician by trade, but she is also a published author. She has two twins, Roger and Ann, with her husband, Robert A. Mah.
This book is used by the protagonist to record the numerous horrors she suffered while under the care of her stepmother. Though Adeline was brought up in a well-to-do family that was economically and socially reputable, the girl did not enjoy her childhood life because of the abuse she experienced. The members of her family were insensitive and did not observe the prerequisites of holistic child development in Adeline’s upbringing.

The major theme that is brought out in this book is the problem of child abuse. Adeline experiences emotional and painful experience even as she fights for her independence. Furthermore, the author lacks the most basic human needs in a tender age: love, understanding, and acceptance. Adeline hopes to have a united family. Her faith and struggle give her the energy to move from Hong Kong to England as part of her pursuit of independence.

Through Falling Leaves, Adeline Mah explains the plight of children in a culture with crude values. The cultural regulations at the time fail to address matters inheritance and child welfare. After marrying Jeanne, a lady of a European ancestry, her father passes the entire family’s wealth to her stepmother, who assumes custody of the young girl. It is expected that the stepmother would use the wealth to give Adeline a comfortable home and due care. Instead, the greed for money and lack of humanity drives her to abuse Adeline as if she were not part of the family.

Falling Leaves is a depiction of a society that is weak in protecting human rights. The events leading to the suffering of Adeline Mah take place in a society with notable and reasonable people. However, the culture is not strong enough to address matters child abuse and regulations regarding inheritance. The unpopular culture fails to come to the refuge for the young girls whose mother had passed on. Instead of facilitating her freedom, the members of her family blame Adeline for her mother’s death as it was caused by the circumstances of her birth. In fact, Adeline conceives the fact that she is the most unloved child because she caused her mother’s death (Mah 60). These acts of irrational blame and abuse depict Adeline’s family as insensitive and cruel.

Desperate to find love, Adeline heeds to the old proverb that states, ‘‘Falling leaves return to their roots,'' (Mah 274). The proverb educates her that whenever trouble strikes, it is always wise to turn to your family. Adeline makes a decision to trace the roots of her Shanghai family where she was optimistic about finding love and care. She meets her aunt who loves her unconditionally.

The book is also a motivation to people who cling to a spec of hope for a better future. Adeline Mah circumstances do not determine her future. She uses her childhood experience to fight hard for her independence and become a successful person. Despite her poor childhood conditions, Adeline undergoes a successful transition to adulthood and becomes a prolific Chinese-American author.

Works Cited

Mah, Adeline Y. Falling Leaves Return to Their Roots =: Luo Ye Gui Gen: the True Story of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter. , 2010. Print.

July 24, 2021


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