In the midst of the Cultural Revolution in China, the government was banning many of the traditional practices like burials and coffins, though Wenguang Huang’s grandmother wanted her family to defy the ban and plan a traditional funeral complete with a coffin for her death. At the time their grandmother’s health was fine but she was obsessed with her mortality and funeral, and in spite of her family’s attempt to dissuade her she continued her campaign for the burial. The family finally gave up and had a coffin built despite the threat of exposure and punishment from the government.
The secret coffin both brought the family together and caused friction through time as the family argued about grandma’s funeral while she continued to live for many more years. The Little Red Guard: A Family Memoir by Wenguang Huang is a poignant and insightful story of a family that survived war, famine and the dangers of the changing political landscape in China. Huang’s memories of his family are tempered by time and distance as he has grown up and moved to the United States, and the result is a touching memoir that chronicles the complicated ties that bind families together.