The Book War

Wang Ping

Little Mermaid

Little Mermaid Illustration by Gennady Spirin

I discovered “The Little Mermaid” in 1969. That morning, when I opened the door to light the stove to make breakfast, I found my neighbor reading under a streetlight. The red plastic wrap indicated it was Mao’s collected work. She must have been there all night long, for her hair and shoulders were covered with frost, and her body shivered from cold. She was sobbing quietly. I got curious. What kind of person would weep from reading Mao’s words? I walked over and peeked over her shoulders. What I saw made me shiver. The book in her hands was Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, and she was reading “The Little Mermaid.”

The day I heard the story in my kindergarten, I begged my mom to send me to school right away so that I could read the fairy tales by myself. By the end of my first grade, however, the Cultural Revolution began. Schools were closed, libraries sealed. Books, condemned as “poisonous weeds,” were burnt on streets. I thought I’d never see “The Little Mermaid” again.

Read the full story at River, Blood and Corn


Wang Ping is a Chinese-American writer, photographer and artist