Lisle, Illinois ~ Though only eight-years-old at the time, Jian Ping recalls vividly the insults and rocks that assailed her as she made her way to see her beaten, publicly humiliated and imprisoned father. She remembers how her mother, a school administrator, was paraded in public and also thrown in prison, and how her family was forced to live in a mud house without heat, water or toilet.
To say that life was far from pleasant for Ping (Jennifer Hou Kwong) and her family is an understatement, as she reveals in the heart-wrenching true story of a childhood ravaged by an oppressive communist regime in her book, “Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China.”
Ping was born soon after Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward,” where millions starved to death, and grew up during the Cultural Revolution from 1966-76 when Mao empowered youth to persecute anyone they wanted. No one was safe.
The Women’s Institute for Global Leadership at Benedictine University will hold a screening of the movie, “Mulberry Child,” from 6:00-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 22 in Rooms 102 and 103 of the The Margaret and Harold Moser Center at 1832 Centre Point Circle in Naperville. The screening with be followed by a discussion with the author. The event is open to the Benedictine community and general public. Admission is $10 and refreshments will be served.
Based on Ping’s book, the film depicts her childhood and her struggles later in life to connect with her American-raised daughter, Lisa. During the Beijing Olympics, Lisa travels with her mother to China to visit her dying grandfather, Hou Kai. It is on this journey that Lisa finally reads “Mulberry Child.” Tracing her family’s history, Lisa begins to see her mother in a different light and accepts her own heritage.
Filled with dramatic re-enactments, historical records and moving interviews, the movie explores the human capacity for courage and endurance, and reveals how the events of the past haunt our future.
“Mulberry Child” was selected “Best of the Fest” at the Palm Springs International Film Festival and is the winner of the 2012 Special Jury Prize for Achievement in Writing at the Nashville Film Festival. Film critic Roger Ebert described the movie as “a powerful and touching film” and awarded it three-and-a-half stars in a Chicago Sun-Times review.
“The mulberry tree is a tough tree that thrives in unfavorable conditions,” Ping said. “From my grandparents struggling against poverty to my parents enduring hardship and maintaining their integrity in the face of political persecution, the spirit and triumph of resilience was the core of their survival and success.
“My siblings and I, growing up during the Cultural Revolution, learned to cherish this spirit from them,” Ping added. “Like the mulberry tree, we didn’t succumb to the traumatic experiences we were subjected to. We thrived and became stronger. ”
Ping earned a bachelor’s degree in English at Jilin University, Changchun, China, and dual master’s degrees in Film and International Affairs from Ohio University.
She worked in Beijing for four years before coming to the United States to pursue graduate studies in 1986. Her publications include “A Fool’s Paradise,” “Chinese Film Theory” and a collection of translated short stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer.
Ping was a working mother in the corporate world in Chicago for 20 years before establishing her own company, MoraQuest LLC, a firm focusing on bridging cultural differences and publishing books on cross-cultural issues with an emphasis on China. She is a public speaker and has given talks on topics related to China, women’s leadership and immigrant assimilation at business organizations, special interest groups, schools and universities.
Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 56 undergraduate majors, 16 graduate and four doctorate programs. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently ranked Benedictine University as the seventh fastest-growing campus among private nonprofit master’s universities, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among the top 20 percent of America’s colleges for 2011. Benedictine University’s Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain’s Chicago Business as the fourth largest in the Chicago area in 2011.