Guo Yue – a Leap Into Life in China
A-Z Challenge letter: Y – Yue
Today I would like to introduce you to another Barefoot author. Guo Yue is an acclaimed musician, playing the dizi and bawu (Chinese bamboo flute and reed pipe respectively). He currently lives in London and records for Real Word Records. As well as recording traditional Chinese music, he has also recorded with Peter Gabriel, Sinead O’Connor and the Hothouse Flowers, amongst others.
Born in the year of Mao’s Great Leap Forward, Yue grew up during the Cultural Revolution (Yue means “Leap Forward”), amongst traditional musicians from whom he learnt many techniques. Besides being an outstanding musician, Yue is also a talented cook and runs cooking workshops all over the world.
Yue is married to Clare Farrow, a journalist and writer and together, they wrote an amazing book for Barefoot Books – Little Leap Forward: A Boy in Beijing*. Based on Yue’s memories of growing up in that time, the book is the fictional tale of the longing for the China that existed before the Revolution. Despite writing about a brutal time in China’s history, Yue and Clare use subtlety rather than graphic description to portray events.
In her author profile, Clare describes how Yue recounted tales of his childhood to her with his eyes closed
It was an incredible outpouring of colours, words, smells and sounds, everyday details that had somehow been hidden away – fresh and immediate – in a box in his mind; a combination of extraordinarily vivid, sensual detail – a child’s view of things, undiluted by an adult perspective – with images that were a writer’s dream.
She goes on to explain how, despite never having met Yue’s mother, she developed a great respect for her in the process of writing the book and found that she was able to really relate to her. Yue’s mother was educated and fascinated with other cultures. She tried to show her youngest son that there was a world beyond the China he knew:
She did everything she could, in the short time that she had before she was sent to do hard labour in the countryside and subsequently lost all powers of movement and speech, to make Yue understand that there was a world outside Mao’s China; and that even though her own life was destroyed by the Cultural Revolution, with his little bamboo flute, a free imagination and inquiring mind, he could still fly beyond the dark, narrow alleys and grey courtyards of Beijing. If she could hold this book in her hands, and see the exquisite illustrations by Helen Cann, whose sense of colour and attention to authentic details has really moved us, I think she would be very proud.