Book Review: “A Heart for Freedom” by Chai Ling (2011)

“The remarkable journey of a young dissident, her daring escape, and her quest to free China’s daughters.”

As amazing as it seems, very few Chinese people today have heard of the “Tienanmen Square Massacre” as we know it here in the West. They certainly know the place, and they know that something awful occurred in the early summer of 1989, but their recollection of the events are nothing more than implanted memories, their knowledge nothing more than tainted history. The government has turned the massacre on its head, and all information about the atrocities from within her own controlled borders has been sanitized of governmental fault, and the liberators and revolutionaries, the peaceful, murdered individuals, have become both the instigators and the enemies. Tienanmen Square has essentially become to her newest generations a boring fable of China’s past, yet some who know the truth, some who were even there, continue to share their stories and to remind the world that only a few short years ago, the Chinese government massacred thousands of her own children.

In A Heart for Freedom, author and former student leader and revolutionary, Chai Ling, shares her own story of growing up as a prime candidate for Communist leadership and thought, even attending the greatest university the nation had to offer, but then learning that such an ideology was truly incapable of serving the people it promised to protect. This autobiography takes the reader from Chai Ling’s own childhood where her parents, both faithful Communist soldiers and physicians, trained her to love her government really more than life itself. But once she arrived at school and met thinkers of different breeds, her doubts began to rise and her passions for new ideologies began to fester. At one point during her college years, Chai Ling acknowledged that she had doubts about the Party’s being the servant of the people, and so began her long, exciting yet painful journey from simple Communist-in-training to student leader, revolutionary, and wanted criminal.

Throughout her memoir, Chai Ling develops the unknown and unfelt emotions of the oppressed in China, emotions that are all but foreign to those born and raised in the freedom of the United States, and emotions that essentially fueled the fire that drove millions of Chinamen to take a stand against the same government that had starved to death a large percentage of the previous generation during the Cultural Revolution. As she develops these emotions, a reader can feel as if he is standing side-by-side Chai Ling during the most desperate hours of lat May, 1989, in Tienanmen Square. While the entire book is written in matter-of-fact past tense, as if Chai Ling is recounting the events as a witness during a trial, the events are real and the sensations are palpable. Through this book, one can learn much about the bitter realities of a government that “serves” its innumerable, ignorant, and expendable people by silencing their voices, denying their freedom, and attacking their ideals of equality and human rights.

This book may be one of many on the atrocities of Communist nations the world over during the 20th Century, but Chai Ling also brings a special air to her work by including her journey to faith in Jesus Christ. As such, this book is a fitting read for those interested in history, Communism, revolutions, and Christian biographies.

©2011 E.T.

Gallery | This entry was posted in Action, Atheism, Biography, Book Review, Chinese History, Communism, History, Non-Fiction, Pleasure, Society, Women. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Book Review: “A Heart for Freedom” by Chai Ling (2011)

  1. Let G. says:

    Thank you for sharing your review on Chai Ling’s book. Almost all the reviews I have read on the net are all positive. This book is a compelling biography recommended for everyone, most especially those who are interested in China’s history and those who are struggling with failure, hurt and shame. This book is an excellent resource for all seekers who search for true meaning and purpose while battling our private fears and regrets. We have included this in our collection at, heaps of books can be found here which can be used as a tool for evangelism.

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