Asia Scope

Egg on Mao

It was the striking picture of Mao Tse-Tung–with ‘slashes’ of black paint across his face–that caught my eye as I was perusing the CS Monitor this morning. And I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the image is actually from the cover of the latest book by Denise Chong, from my hometown of Vancouver.

Chong, an economist working for the Canadian government, changed careers in the 1980s and ended up an award-winning writer. She is also the author of The Girl in the Picture (2000), a biographical and historical account of Kim Phuc, the young girl whose screaming and naked image taken during the Vietnam War is still known around the world.

Chong’s much anticipated latest book is Egg on Mao: The Story of an Ordinary Man Who Defaced an Icon and Unmasked a Dictatorship, and it has already been getting some good reviews.

The Montreal Gazette calls the book a ‘gem,’ saying, ‘While telling this highly charged political story, Chong never loses sight of the human factor, nor of the toll that an authoritarian society takes on the individual.’ Meanwhile, the Quill and Quire also praises the book, noting: ‘Chong is a masterful storyteller. . . .Egg on Mao is a lovely and fascinating look at not only China, but also the power of friendship and human decency.’

Egg on Mao is, like The Girl in the Picture, a historical and biographical tale centered on Lu Decheng, a rural bus mechanic who in 1989, along with two friends, infamously defamed a portrait of Mao Tse-tung in Tiananmen Square with paint-filled eggs. The Canadian Newswire describes the account as an exploration of ‘whether repression and imprisonment, or even time itself, can douse the flame of desire for human rights.’