Adeline Yen Mah

by Tia from Grand Rapids

They say I will end up as nothing, but I will prove them wrong...
Father, K.C Li, and Ye Ye (adelinyenmah.com)
Father, K.C Li, and Ye Ye (adelinyenmah.com)

Adeline, (Jun-Ling is her Chinese name), Yen Mah doesn’t have a birthday because she was unloved by her family, and none of her mother’s children have a birthday either. I believe her birthday was in the year of 1937. Later her father gave her the birthday of November 30, his birthday.

Adeline has many relatives that I could go on and on listing, but the relative that she loved the most was her dear Aunt Baba. Aunt Baba loved her through the good and the bad. When Niang would punish her for no reason Aunt Baba would comfort her and tell her how special she was to her, and how she can do anything she wanted to do. Unfortunately, her mother died just two weeks after giving birth to her. After that her father remarried to Niang. Niang absolutely hated Adeline for everything she did. She would punish her cruelly by physical abuse by slapping. Father would never do anything to stop her from the punishing she endured. Father never really believed in any of his children from his first marriage. Adeline also had very loving grandparents, Ye Ye and Nai Nai. They believed in her very much; they were also her best friends. She also had many brothers and sisters. She had Big Brother, Second Brother, Third Brother, and Big Sister from her mother’s marriage, and then there was Fourth Brother and Little Sister from Niang. Also, she had a very loving family on Niang’s side. She had Aunt Reine, Uncle Jean, Cousin Claude, and Cousin Victor.

 (adelineyenmah.com)
(adelineyenmah.com)

She had many set backs and struggles in her life. One was that she was considered bad luck for the family, everyone believed that she was the cause for her mother's death. All of her brothers and sisters treated her badly and would torture her, tease her, and punish her when Niang wasn't. Another struggle that was with her all of her life was Niang. Niang would slap her and abuse her for no reason, and none of her family would stand up for her except for Aunt Baba, Ye Ye, Nai Nai, and sometimes her brother. She was never allowed to go to her friend's house, and they were not allowed to come to her house. If they, did she would get in extreme trouble, or end up getting sent to boarding school. She didn't have to worry about that much because she did not have a lot friends to begin with. Another unfortunate thing that happened was that her Ye Ye and Nai Nai died. They were always an inspiration to Adeline and she would always love them a lot. Niang also caused another struggle, she separated Aunt Baba and her for a long amount of time and did not let them write each other. Another struggle that she faced and what a lot of people faced was gender discrimination. A lot of women in China were not believed and not believed in that they could be more than a maid or a wife someday.

Adeline Yen Mah (adelineyenmah.com)
Adeline Yen Mah (adelineyenmah.com)

A year after her mother died her Father remarried to a Eurasian young women which Adeline calls Niang, (Mother in Chinese). A little while after that they had a young baby boy and girl. Adeline was starting to feel unloved and she started to work harder in school, so someone would be proud of her. An unfortunate event followed this, her Nai Nai died. She was filled with grief until her father and Niang left for a while. She said it was like they were in heaven. Then, Father came back to take them to Shanghai. They arrived in a beautiful house. While at school Adeline started to make a new friendship with Wu Chun-Mei. She was filled with joy especially when she got a present, a little duckling. PLT, (Precious Little Treasure), was the joy of her life, Adeline would treat it like it was her sister. This was a great time until their dog killed it. The next big important thing that happened next was Big Sister’s marriage. This struck fear into her. Was she going to end up like her too? Will she have an arraigned marriage too?

Her best friend Wu Chun-Mei was having a birthday party and Adeline was invited, but she was not allowed to go to anyone's house or anyone come to her house. The party was on a perfect day, there was going to be no school, but Niang didn't know about it. She headed off like she was going to school, but actually stopped at her house and had a party. When Adeline came home for lunch Niang found out, and she was not allowed to go back. A little bit after that and Adeline was elected to become class president. She was so proud she was becoming something, something important. Unfortunately, her friends decided to throw her a party. Niang was extremely angry with her for that, she slapped her until she bled and told her to tell them to "get lost". Everyone saw what happened to her and threatened to call the police on Niang, but they moved away, again. Niang sent her to a boarding school in Tianjin, right in the middle of the war. Niang didn't care if she got hurt, or killed; she just wanted her out the house. She went through many weeks of her being the only student of the school until her aunt came and rescued her. She expected Aunt Baba, but instead she found that Aunt Reine, (Niang's sister), had come. She barely knew her, but still she was grateful until she said she was taking her to Niang. They traveled on a boat for a couple of weeks with Aunt Reine, Uncle Jean, Cousin Claude, and Cousin Victor. It was a great amount of fun for her to be with people her age and to have fun with them. She loved every second of it and dreaded every second of it too.

They eventually arrived and Niang did not look thrilled, or actually any emotion to see Adeline. A couple weeks passed as if she did not even exist, and she stayed home with Ye Ye and she loved it. Then they decided it was time to send her to a boarding school in Hong Kong. She was always the odd one out she never did fit in, and when the semester ended she came down with pneumonia. She was extremely sick and stayed at home for a while with Ye Ye. Soon after that Ye Ye had inspired her to write a play. She entered it in a contest and waited, and waited. The waiting seemed to go on forever. While she was in school she had been taken out for some reason she did not know, Ye Ye had died. She went into a very sad time while she finished her year. Then she gets pulled out again. Father wanted to see her in his room. She thought of what she could have done to deserve this. She had won. She had won first place in the play-writing contest. She had done something right; she had impressed Father. He had decided that she could go to school in London with her brothers. She was filled with joy.

Adeline Yen Mah (adelineyenmah.com)
Adeline Yen Mah (adelineyenmah.com)

Adeline had some very great accomplishments in her life. First, all of her life she stood up to Niang never giving in to her demands. Although it was stubborn, it was the right thing to do. If she did what Niang wanted her to do she would be a no one. She would have never followed her dreams and become a writer. Another accomplishment that she did was she went to school. She had always done good in school and proved her whole family wrong. One of the things that she was proud of is she didn't end up like Big Sister. She did not have to get married to have a life. Another thing that was a major accomplishment in her life was that she went to college. No one thought that she would be able to go to college because she was a women, but she proved them wrong and got a medical degree. The final accomplishment that made Father extremely proud, she won the play writing competition. She had won first prize out of all the children in China.

Some examples of heroism is that she had refused to give into Niang. Even though everyone else gave in, she still believed that she had a life beyond the average person. That she would prove them wrong that she is going to be something, something to be proud of. Another act of heroism is that she did not react badly when PLT died; she just stood there and took the punishment. She did not scream, she did not show her family what they wanted to see. Another thing is that she believed that she could go to school and college with her brothers. She believed that she could do anything she put her mind to. She had some very heroic characteristics. First, she was very brave. Adeline would stand up to Niang, even though she knew that she would end up getting in trouble. She demonstrated this by going to a friend's birthday party even though she wasn't able to. Another characteristic was intelligence. She was intelligent because even though she is a women she was smart enough to get into college. An example was that she had won a play writing competition that was first out of all of China. Her third characteristic was that she had determination. She was determined to show everyone that they were wrong and she would become something. Her final heroic characteristic was that she was optimistic. She kept on believing in the positive, and she could do anything she wanted to do. She could go to school, she could go to college, she could become a somebody.

China Land of Dragons and Emperors (http://www.allenandunwin.com/default.aspx?page=397&book=9781741754674)
China Land of Dragons and Emperors (http://www.allenandunwin.com/default.aspx?page=397&book=9781741754674)

Right now Adeline Yen Mah has written, China Land of Dragons and Emperors. Also, she has two children and is married to Robert Mah. She lives California and London. I believe Adeline has had one of the most difficult lives of anyone, and has made a great success out of it. She has been a doctor and a famous author in her lifetime. She is a great inspiration to children everywhere. She defied the odds, and became what everyone thought she could not become.

Related Links

Adeline Yen Mah - Her own website!