Sunday, July 5, 2009

Growing up is Never Easy

At some point each of us must reassess the values that we have been taught and decide for ourselves if they fit within the framework of our own minds. This is called growing up, and although it is full of difficult choices, complacency holds a much crueler fate than self-awareness. In Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Forman Lewis, winner of the 1933 Newbery Medal, Young Fu uses his brain to decide what is true and meaningful to him within his culture. The story begins as Young Fu travels with his mother from the country to the city of Chungking to become an apprentice to a coppersmith. While he experiences the changes of growing from a child to an apprentice to a journeyman to a man, the country around him constantly shifts from ongoing revolutions. At the brink of a new regime, Young Fu undergoes an inner struggle to find his own course. He defies the ancient gods by saving a foreign woman from the Fire Dragon, a fire that is bent on destroying everything in its path. He befriends her when others caution him to stay away. It is because of his friendship with this woman, who turns out to be a nurse, that he is able to save his fellow apprentice, Li, when he falls ill by bringing him to the nurse’s clinic. Young Fu refuses to follow his mother’s superstitions blindly, but thinks through his choices, and then acts. Of course, like any adolescent, he gets himself into his share of scrapes, bad calls, and mistakes, but he learns from each one of them and gains wisdom. While he dismisses concepts that do not make sense to him, Young Fu finds value in the wisdom of his ancestors, which he learns from his neighbor, Wang Scholar. As he grows up, he pieces together his own views, which are certainly shaped by his culture and its beliefs, and finds his place in the world.

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