Letters to a Student Revolutionary – Book Review

Madison Porter

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Letters to a Student Revolutionary is  a book written by Elizabeth Wong, a playwright. After writing the book, she turned it into a play. This story is based on real events and real correspondence exchanged between two women. The book is a great read for teen and adult audiences.

Wong’s book is set between 1979 and 1989, the span between China’s unprecedented opening of its markets to foreign trade and the Tian An Men Square massacre. It concerns the friendship between the Bibi, an American, and her Chinese counterpart Karen. They meet by chance in Beijing, where Bibi is vacationing, and begin a decade-long correspondence writing letters.

Karen secretly adopted an American name in her eagerness to leave China. She begs Bibi to be her American sponsor so that she can emigrate to the United States. Bibi, the privileged offspring of Chinese American parents, initially sees Karen as annoying and just trying to use her as a ticket out of China.

However, as the young women continue communicating, Bibi finds an unexpectedly kind spirit in her Chinese pen pal. As Bibi drifts from job to job and man to man, unable to find a purpose in her life, Karen grows ever more purposeful.

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