Private Revolutions by Yuan Yang review the women who tried to carve a path in a new China


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When Yuan Yang was four years old, she tells us, her parents brought her from China to the UK as they pursued new educational opportunities. Although Private Revolutions, her vivid and detailed memoir, is not primarily the story of her own family, they, too, exemplify the theme of the book: a close look at how China’s citizens responded to the potentially transformative opportunities that four decades of rapid growth afforded. Under Mao, Yang’s father’s family laboured as peasants in western China; as a child, her father paid his school fees with sweet potatoes, and when the sweet potato season was...