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About the book
  • Published: 15 August 2016
  • ISBN: 9780143574323
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 528
  • RRP: $24.99

Mao's Last Dancer




From bitter poverty to the stardom of the West - this is the extraordinary true story of one boy's great courage and determination.

The phenomenal international bestseller Before you can fly, you have to be free.

In a small, desperately poor village in north-east China, a young peasant boy sits at his rickety old school desk, more interested in the birds outside than in Chairman Mao's Red Book and the grand words it contains. But that day, some strange men come to his school – Madame Mao's cultural delegates. They are looking for young peasants to mould into faithful guards of Chairman Mao's great vision for China.

This is the true story of how that one moment in time, by the thinnest thread of a chance, changed the course of a small boy's life in ways that are beyond description. One day he would dance with some of the greatest ballet companies of the world. One day he would be a friend to a president and first lady, movie stars and the most influential people in America. One day he would become a star: Mao's last dancer, and the darling of the West.

Since its release in 2003, Mao’s Last Dancer has sold over 500 000 copies and been turned into a major feature film. Like millions of other peasants’ lives, it was a story that nearly vanished amidst revolution and chaos. It’s a story of courage, a mother’s love, a young boy’s longing for freedom – a beautiful, rich account of an inspirational life, told with honesty, dignity and pride.

  • Pub date: 15 August 2016
  • ISBN: 9780143574323
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 528
  • RRP: $24.99

About the Author

Li Cunxin

Li Cunxin was born in 1961 in the New Village, Li Commune, near the city of Qingdao on the coast of north-east China. The sixth of seven sons in a poor rural family, Li's peasant life in Chairman Mao's communist China changed dramatically when, at the age of eleven, he was chosen by Madame Mao's cultural advisers to become a student at the Beijing Dance Academy. After a summer school in America, for which he was one of only two students chosen, he defected to the West and became a principal dancer for the Houston Ballet.

Li went on to become one of the best male dancers in the world. He is now a senior manager in a major stockbroking firm and lives in Melbourne, Australia, with his wife Mary and their three children, Sophie, Tom and Bridie.

Li's autobiography, Mao's Last Dancer, has received numerous accolades including the Australian Book of the Year Award and has been published around the world. The children’s version won the Australian Publishers Association's Book of the Year for Younger Children and the Queensland Premier's Literary Awards Children's Book Award.

Mao's Last Dancer was adapted into a 2009 feature film of the same name by director Bruce Beresford and writer Jan Sardi.

Also by Li Cunxin

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Awards & Recognition

  • Australian Booksellers Association

    Joint winner • 2004 • Prize for Writing for Young Adults

  • Courier Mail Book of the Year

    Shortlisted • 2004 • Prize for Writing for Young Adults

  • Westfield/Waverley Library Award (NSW)

    Shortlisted • 2004 • Prize for Writing for Young Adults

  • National Biography Award

    Shortlisted • 2005 • Autobiography/biography

  • Australian Book Industry Awards

    Shortlisted • 2008 • International Success


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