• Author and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo at the 2015 London Book Fair.

Author and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo at the 2015 London Book Fair. (Photo : YouTube/theenglishpen1921)

Nowadays, most young people in China only have a fleeting idea of what it’s like during the country’s communist era. But for writer and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo, the memories of living in such a difficult time is as fresh as it was when she was just a little girl in Shintang Village.

The 40-year-old, who has been named as Granta’s best young British novelists in 2013, has detailed her experience in the memoir “Once Upon A Time in The East.”

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The book, which is out this month, tells all about how she came to live in a mountain village at young age, how she met her parents for the first time at the age of seven, and her choice to get out of Beijing in her late teens.

Speaking with The Guardian, Xiaolu said that during the communist era in China, her father was sent to toil at a labor camp while her mother worked full time at a factory and performed in revolutionary operas in the evening. As a result, no one was there to care for the young girl, which resulted to the author being raised by a peasant couple in a mountain village.

“They couldn’t feed me, so aged two they gave me back to my grandparents, who lived in a small fishing village, Shintang,” said Xiaolu, adding that she lived there until she was seven.

In Shintang, she witnessed how old ladies had bound feet and life was a daily struggle for the inhabitants of the fishing village. She also recalled how the patriarchy dominated during those times.

Xiaolu revealed that her grandmother had been sold off as a child bride and wasn’t treated as an equal by her grandfather or by anyone else. Her grandmother was beaten daily by her spouse, which made the author shun her destiny as a woman in China.

Financial Times reports that as a result of all that she has seen, Xiaolu knew that marriage was a trap. She began to map out a different life for herself by convincing her father to take her to Beijing at the age of 18 to compete against 6,000 students for a chance to study film in London.

Now a mother to a 4-year-old daughter, Xiaolu is at peace with her youth and all the hardships that came with being a young girl in communist China.

“I accept life now, the hard and wonderful bits,” said the author. “Whatever it lays out for you, you have to accept.”