I initially read Spider Eaters by Rae Yang for a Chinese history class, but the sentiment has stuck with me. This first hand account of what it was like to come of age in China during the Cultural Revolution really stuck with me. It details how she was an educated daughter of a cadre in the city, and did her duty to her country in the Red Guard - sometimes participating in violent activities in a groupthink environment. Like many of her educated peers, she went off into the remote countryside to do hard labor, as part of the Communist push to appreciate labor and equalize classes. This extremely difficult time caused her to question her allegiances to the Party and to Chairman Mao.
Hers is a unique story because it spans a time of extreme chaos and change for China. Chinese culture following the Great Leap Forward was rapidly changing, and Yang explores her thoughts and feelings growing up in such a tumultuous, dangerous, and tragic time. I saw it more as a primary source of a historical period than I did as a memoir of a girl, and it brought the horrors of the period into vivid detail.