Essay, Pages 3 (564 words)
Ji-li is in music class when she’s summoned to the principal’s office. That’s every kid’s worst nightmare.
It’s not what you think, though: There’s a People’s Liberation Army officer there who asks her to show off her bends. Um, okay.
Ji-li is a little confused. Why would the Liberation Army care about how well she does her martial arts?
Still, she struts her stuff and nails it.
Later that day, the principal calls her out of class again.
This time, Principal Long announces that Ji-li and three other students have been chosen to audition for the Liberation Army’s dance class. Boom.
Ji-li is thrilled she’s always wanted to be a performer, just like her mom. She must have passed the test.
Rushing home, Ji-li can barely contain herself. She can’t wait to spill the beans to her family about this big honor.
When she gets there, though, her dad doesn’t think it’s such a good idea.
Her mom explains that the dance troupe is super-competitive. They make Dance Moms look like a spa day.
That’s not why Ji-li’s dad isn’t stoked, though. Sure, the dance troupe is bloodthirsty, but Ji-li’s dad is more worried about what the Liberation Army will find out about the family if she joins.
See, before people can call themselves part of the renowned dance troupe, they have to go through a background check. We’re talking black-ops, James Bond level of rigorous check.
Ji-li’s dad knows their family won’t pass that level of scrutiny, and he’d rather not have their dirty laundry aired in public.
Wait, what? Ji-li is shocked. She always thought she had a perfect life; she never knew her family had skeletons in the closet.
Even more frustrating, her dad won’t fill her in on the deets, instead busting out the age-old parent line “you’re too young to understand.” Ugh.
Bummed out, Ji-li sulks a little in her room. She tells us a little bit about her family.
Her dad is an actor who mainly plays the villain in children’s theater but is always loving and kind at home. Even though her mom doesn’t work anymore, she was an amazing performer, too.
Then there’s her grandma. She helped start Xin Er Primary School (where Ji-li now goes) back in the day when it was a lot tougher for women to have careers in China. (Remember, the book takes place in 1966, so this is way back in the day.)
Ji-li also has two younger siblings: Ji-yong (who is 11) and Ji-yun (who is 10). Everyone lives together, along with the housekeeper, Song Po-po.
Sometimes her dad’s buddies come over for a salon. Ji-li’s not exactly sure what that is, but they all have interesting stories and are nice to her.
The next day at school, Ji-li delivers the bad news that she won’t be auditioning for the troupe.
She’s too chicken to tell anyone, though, so she hands Principal Long a note from her dad and runs away.
Later, her bestie, An Yi says Ji-li’s acting like a different person now; she’s all quiet and hiding in the shadows instead of talking to anyone.
Ji-li tells us that’s because she doesn’t want people to question her about the troupe. She’s not sure what she would say.
Even though her other classmates don’t make it past the audition, Ji-li is still really bummed out. It’s not just about the troupe, though she doesn’t know what her future will be like in general now. It’s as though everything’s different than she planne