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Falling Leaves By Adeline Yen Mah

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There is a superstition in China known as Ke Xing which says that the baby that causes the death of her mother during child birth is considered to have something stronger than the mother's spirit, which is considered bad luck. Adeline's mother died in giving birth to her. Falling leaves is the true story of Adeline Yen Mah. It told of a person that was discriminated and emotionally abused by her family for all her life since her birth, all her life she suffered and was punished by her family from something she was innocent of and didn't do. To understand this, a brief background of her family history should be known.

Adeline's Father Joseph Tsi-Rung Yen came from a rich family in Shanghai. He was born in 1907. During the time when Shanghai was divided into foreign concessions He was born and raised in the French concession where citizens were ruled by the French, under French law, French police, and French troops. He went to a French missionary school and became baptized as a Catholic. Everything around Adeline's father, Joseph was French. Adeline's father suffered from colonialism. To him, the lowliest French citizen was higher than the highest Chinese Mandarin. His Sister on the Other hand, Adeline's Aunt Baba never stepped into advanced education because it could be considered detrimental to the marriage prospects of young girls. Only the ignorant women were virtuous. - Confucius. Adeline's Grandfather and Grandmother played a great role in her life, just as her Aunt Baba did, for they were the ones that stood by her and encouraged her during her childhood. Adeline's Grandfather Ye Ye was successful during his time and many mei-po (professional female marriage broker) were constantly coming up to him, he was then arranged to marry Adeline's 15 year old grandmother who came from a suitable Shanghai family, Grandma. They were married in 1903. Grandma was a very witty woman though she had difficulty walking because her feet were bound, wrapped tightly with a long, narrow cloth bandage. This was done to force the feet inwards, which was very painful make it the feet tiny which was priced by Chinese Men during those times. The Grand Aunt of Adeline on the other hand, was different form her Grandmother, unlike her, she refused to have her feet bound and she was an achiever, she was fluent in English and had western friends, she set up a bank called Shanghai Women's bank which became very profitable, most often depositors were from women everywhere and it also employed women. Adeline's Father was a young business tycoon during the time when he met Adeline's Mother, Ye Ye had so much trust in him that he invested his life savings into Joseph's company. He was known to have the power of converting iron into gold for he handled money very well. Marriage brokers were swarming around him, but he wanted a woman from Shanghai, sophisticated, unlike girls from Tianjin that were provincial. He eventually married Aunt Baba's friend Miss Ren Yong-ping an intelligent, witty and attractive girl from a middle class Shanghai family where she worked at Grand Aunt's bank together with Aunt Baba. Shanghai during those times was an exhilarating. Modern and busy city.

Joseph and his wife Ren (Adeline's Father and Mother) had a happy marriage, their first baby delivered by Dr Mary Mei-ing Ting was a girl though it had a partially paralysed left arm due to a difficult delivery. She was named Jun-Pei. Then came three sons, Zi-jie, Zi-lin and Zi-jun. There was a gap of three years before Jun-ling, Adeline, came along. She was born on November 30, 1937. They lived in a very nice and modern house. After two weeks of giving birth to Adeline her mother died of complications from giving birth, she was 30 then. Adeline never saw pictures of her father because it was all burned by her father after the funeral. Aunt Baba was the one who took care of all the kids after the death of Adeline's mother. Soon after, marriage brokers were flocking around Joseph for they knew he still could get remarried. One Sunday afternoon while he was passing the neighborhood in his impressive buick, he saw his secretary standing by with a very beautiful woman. She was Jeanne Virginie Prosperii, a 17 year old girl born of a french father and a chinese mother. Her features were an exquisite combination of a Chinese delicacy and French sensuality. Joseph courted her by giving extravagant gifts which Ye Ye didn't fully enjoy. Soon after they were married. To him she was the ultimate status symbol. Jeanne was half French, and half Chinese, but called herself French, he was overwhelmed by her beauty and style and education. When she consented to marry him, he considered himself the luckiest man in the world. Subsequently, he was dominated by her all of his life. This is where falling leaves all began.

Joseph bought a house next door in Shandong road as a present for Jeanne. Soon after, Adeline and her siblings all had European names. Jun-pei became Lydia, her three brothers Zi-jie, Zi-lin, and Zi-jun became Gregory, Edgar and James. Jeanne was called Niang by the children which also meant mother in Chinese for they called their real mother Mama. Joseph and Adeline had 2 children, Franklin and Susan, Adeline's memory of Tianjin was nice when she was still with her Aunt Baba, Grandfather and Grandmother along with the rest of the family. During her childhood Adeline remembered Lydia as a dominating and intimidating figure, she always bullied and hurt Adeline at her young age of four. Her eldest bother Gregory had a sunny personality and had the ability to be the life of the party he was also very mischievous. Being the Eldest son he tended to be the favorite. He was good in numbers and in playing bridge. Adeline feared Edgar the most in all of her siblings for he constantly bullied and hurt her and James, he was very insecure and they were constantly told to do errands for him. James to Adeline was her hero, friend and comforter, they used to play together and they had a certain type of closeness though James had the sort of personality of being unattached and just going with the flow. Their Memory of Tianjin was oddly serene. They were able to eat all the types of good food that they wanted. Most of their sufferings began when their Grandmother died, this was the time when Niang had her full authority. The end of their sunny childhood years were over.

Shortly after the death of their grandmother they transferred to Shanghai along with Aunt Baba and Ye Ye. Their house symbolized the discrimination within the family. It had 2 floors, the stepchildren of Niang stayed on the 2nd Floor. While Niang's "family" stayed on the 1st floor,



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