Mao's Last Dancer

Mao’s Last Dancer

Written by:

Additional Formats
  • Ebook
  • ISBN 9781101458778
  • 528 Pages
  • Berkley
  • Adult



The extraordinary memoir of a peasant boy raised in rural Maoist China who was plucked from his village to study ballet and went on to become one of the greatest dancers of his generation. 

From a desperately poor village in northeast China, at age eleven, Li Cunxin was chosen by Madame Mao’s cultural delegates to be taken from his rural home and brought to Beijing, where he would study ballet. In 1979, the young dancer arrived in Texas as part of a cultural exchange, only to fall in love with America-and with an American woman. Two years later, through a series of events worthy of the most exciting cloak-and-dagger fiction, he defected to the United States, where he quickly became known as one of the greatest ballet dancers in the world. This is his story, told in his own inimitable voice.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
Mao's Last Dancer

Mao’s Last Dancer

Written by: Li Cunxin


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“[A] fascinating memoir…told simply but passionately, with subtle humor and unguarded emotion.”—The Houston Chronicle

“Mix Billy Elliot with Torn Curtain and you’ll have some of the tale in very broad outline…well-paced…full of adventures.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Fascinating reading…unfolds with honesty, humor, and a quiet dignity. This book has wide appeal, for it concerns not only a dancer’s coming of age in a turbulent time but also individual strength, self-discovery, and the triumph of the human spirit.”—Library Journal

“The facts of his life are astonishing on their own, but what makes Li Cunxin’s engrossing autobiography so captivating is his enthusiastic retelling of every twist and turn.”—Vogue (Australia)

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Table of Contents

Mao’s Last DancerA Wedding: Qingdao, 1946

Part One: My Childhood

1. Home
2. My Niang and Dia
3. A Commune Childhood
4. The Seven of Us
5. Na-na
6. Chairman Mao’s Classroom
7. Leaving Home

Part Two: Beijing

8. Feather in a Whirlwind
9. The Caged Bird
10. That First Lonely Year
11. The Pen
12. My Own Voice
13. Teacher Xiao’s Words
14. Turning Points
15. The Mango
16. Change
17. On the Way to the West
18. The Filthy Capitalist America
19. Good-bye, China

Part Three: The West

20. Return to the Land of Freedom
21. Elizabeth
22. Defection
23. My New Life
24. A Millet Dream Come True
25. No More Nightmares
26. Russia
27. Mary
28. Going Home
29. Back in My Village
30. Another Wedding: Qingdao, 1988

The Li Family Tree