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Adeline Yen Mah’s Falling Leaves is a Biography and Memoir of a younger Chinese girl who grew up under unfathomable torture and abuse of her rights as a child. The 79-year old writer schooled at The Sacred Heart Canossian College, Hong Kong, and The London Hospital Medical School, London, UK. She currently resides in London, United Kingdom and California, United States. Dr. Adeline Yen Mah is a physician by occupation but is well known as a writer. She is married to Robert A. Mah and has two children, Roger and Ann.
The creator uses this memoir to document the various atrocities she underwent underneath the care of her step-mother. 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 about 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 points out 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 and finally 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.
Mah, Adeline Y. Falling Leaves Return to Their Roots =: Luo Ye Gui Gen: the True Story of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter. Penguin Books Ltd, 2009. Print.
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