"Forbidden City," written by William Bell and published in 1999, is a historical novel about 17-year-old Alex Jackson's life-changing experiences in Beijing during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Alex's father is a cameraman for a news station in Canada and invites Alex to go on a reporting trip to China. Alex changes during the course of the story as he realizes that reporting the news is a dangerous, yet vital, job that ensures corrupt governments are exposed when they refuse to protect civil liberties.
Zealous and Enthusiastic
Alex is thrilled when his dad offers him the opportunity to travel to Beijing. He loves history and looks forward to learning about the culture and history. He admires his dad for his ability to film the news with integrity and sincerity, but Alex tends to ignore the personal side of reporting. He's young and naive and doesn't realize how serious and dangerous documenting true stories can be. He sees reporting as a job and doesn't consider people's emotions, hardships and trials.
Timid and Fearful
When protests erupt in Tiananmen Square, Alex's courage is tested. Government officials arrest Alex's father, but Alex bravely keeps videotapes and film of the coverage and hides them in his underwear. He loses his childlike enthusiasm and innocence as he flees Tiananmen Square -- civil war threatens natives and foreigners alike. Alex escapes the violent protests, but the circumstances scare and overwhelm him. He's no longer the self-confident boy who studies history -- he lives it. Reality forces him to rely on others for survival.
Compassionate and Appreciative
Alex changes the most as he learns to depend on Beijing natives during his struggle to escape, survive and find his dad. Soldiers respond violently to Alex's friends when they confront the guards and try to sneak Alex into the embassy. Alex learns that despite language barriers and cultural differences, people are willing to risk everything for those they care about and for the sake of justice. He becomes more compassionate and understanding and appreciates those who are willing to sacrifice for the greater good.
Self-Aware and Emotionally Mature
Alex is traumatized by the events but feels for those who suffered through the Tiananmen Square crisis. He no longer sees political and social unrest as topics to fill history books. He learns what it truly means to fight for freedom and democracy and has a more mature view of people's struggles. Alex gains self-awareness and the ability to sympathize with the plight of others during his coming-of-age adventure in Beijing.
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