Eighth Moon – by Bette Bao Lord (1964)

Eighth Moon

Sansan was born into a middle-class Chinese family in 1945, at the tail end of World War II. By the time she had her first birthday, the Chinese Communist Revolution had begun. In October of 1949, Mao Tse Tung officially declared the country to be Communist. Sansan remembers the day, when she was four years old, that the soldiers took over the city of Tientsin.

From that point on, life became very different. The family became impoverished. Unquestioned allegiance to the party was mandatory. No one dared to disagree with the propaganda being forced on them. At age 11, Sansan was one of many children who were forced to leave their family to do hard manual labor for the government. The first assignment was for two weeks, and there was barely enough food to live on. Other mandatory work assignments followed, although she was still a child.

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1984 – by George Orwell (1949)

1984

It’s the novel that people have been reading and talking about for over sixty years. Written after World War II, it portrays a society run by a totalitarian government. Citizens are under constant surveillance at work, on the street, and in their homes. There is no way to opt out of the monitoring. The government tells you what to do, where to go, and what to think.

Winston, the main character in the story, is a simple man who has a government job with the Ministry Of Truth. Ironically, the agency he works for exchanges the truth for whatever they want the common people to believe. Newspapers and history books are constantly being re-written, and as time passes, everyone – at least almost everyone – accepts the altered version. As long as Winston does his job, never disagrees with anything, and toes the government line, he is fine. But when he begins to question the truth, and yearns for freedom to do as he pleases, he finds himself in serious trouble.

This book is as timely now as it was in 1949. The struggle between government and individual freedom has always existed. We enjoy relative freedom in the United States, but many of our liberties are being taken away. “1984” is a chilling reminder of what happens when government is allowed too much power.