Books by Anchee Min

ANCHEE MIN was born in Shanghai in 1957. At seventeen she was sent to a labor collective, where a talent scout for Madame Mao"s Shanghai Film Studio recruited her to work as a movie actress. She came to the United States in 1984 with the help of actress J

Released: May 7, 2013

"An uplifting work of incredible grit and fortitude."
A truly rags-to-riches story from Shanghai to Chicago. Read full book review >
PEARL OF CHINA by Anchee Min
Released: April 1, 2010

"A straightforward biography would have served better than this flat, hagiographic narrative."
Min (The Last Empress, 2007, etc.) offers an adoring fictional biography of Pearl S. Buck. Read full book review >
Released: March 20, 2007

"The great swatches of historical detail will enlighten readers who generally view history from a Western perspective, but with Orchid so busy explaining herself, the human story of a woman who denies her instincts never quite emerges."
In this sequel to her historical novel Empress Orchid (2004), Min tells the story of late-19th-century China's crumbling empire, from the point of view of the country's much-vilified final empress. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 3, 2004

"Evocative, but underpowered in simple narrative."
Chinese-born Min's usual meticulous attention to local color (Wild Ginger, 2002, etc.) puts a brake on what should be a riveting tale—the ascent to power of China's last Empress—in a court where beheadings are as frequent as concubines are numerous. Read full book review >
WILD GINGER by Anchee Min
Released: April 8, 2002

"Fascinating, moving, and marvelously strange: second-novelist Min (Becoming Madame Mao, 2000; a memoir, Red Azalea, 1994) opens the door to a world that is at once terrible and compelling. "
A striking story of love and betrayal re-creates the terror and animosities that informed the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2000

"A remarkable act of historical imagination, but readers are left with more questions than answers. "
The author of a wrenching memoir, Red Azalea (1994), turns to fiction and goes back to her native China to explore the story of the woman once known to the world as the `white-boned demon.` Like all girls of her class, Jiang Ching had her feet bound at the age of four. Unlike most, she never forgot the pain and humiliation, even after she became Madame Mao, the most powerful woman in China in the late '60s and '70s. Her mother's words still rang in her ears: "Think of yourself as grass, born to be stepped on." Jiang Ching never could. Instead, she channeled her agony and humiliation into a persona that allowed her to view herself as a `peacock among hens.` The author tries to portray Madame Mao as a feminist who became caught up in the chaotic political beliefs of the man she loved. But the protagonist remains a mysterious and ambiguous figure, despite Min's efforts to humanize her. The aspects of Jiang Ching's personality emphasized here—her desire for acceptance, her need for love, and her inability to express intimacy—do not create understanding or empathy for her often ruthless and megalomaniac behavior. Capable and accomplished though Min is, she never truly captures Jiang Ching's character. Read full book review >
KATHERINE by Anchee Min
Released: May 1, 1995

From the author of last year's Red Azalea—a highly praised memoir of growing up during the Cultural Revolution—comes a bittersweet story as much about love as about the malignant legacy of Maoist China. Twenty-nine-year-old Zebra Wong begins her story in 1982, ``a year depression swam through the veins of the nation.'' The Cultural Revolution is over, Mao is dead, and China is slowly changing, but individual lives are still subject to bureaucratic whim and control. Zebra and her classmates, temporarily excused from regular factory work, are attending a special work-study English program in Shanghai, Zebra's hometown. Like Zebra, her fellow students had worshipped Mao, spent their adolescence learning his teachings, and then worked in remote agricultural regions during the 1970's. Now ``former'' revolutionaries, they bitterly realize that ``our youth had faded without a trace...[as] we learned to distrust...acted like heartless robots, our souls wrapped in darkness.'' But Katherine, a young American in Shanghai to teach English while she completes her dissertation, soon changes their attitudes and their lives with her gaiety and openness- -changes that will eventually harm both herself and her students because, as she's warned, ``no one tells the truth here. You have to figure out where to find the truth.'' Zebra, who'd been raped by the local party chief while performing forced labor in the countryside, is instantly fascinated by Katherine's beauty and stories of American life. And though Zebra has a loveless affair with a fellow student, who will cynically marry an official's daughter to get a scholarship to go abroad, she finds herself increasingly in love with Katherine. Eventually, though, Katherine's incautious spontaneity, her political naãvetÇ, and others' jealous betrayals lead to her deportation—as well as to a harsh penalty for Zebra ended only by changing politics and some loyal friends end. Lyrical prose with a distinct Chinese flavor makes Min's first novel—and its times—even more poignant and resonant. Read full book review >
RED AZALEA by Anchee Min
Released: Feb. 1, 1994

Fascinating memoir of a young Chinese girl during the collapse of the Maoist regime. As a schoolgirl, Min distinguishes herself as a young communist—and a high point of her career as head of the Little Red Guard comes when she is persuaded to denounce her beloved teacher as a reactionary, thus ruining the woman's career and possibly placing her life in jeopardy. As a reward for this revolutionary act, Min is sent to Red Fire Farm near the China Sea to work as a peasant on the collective. Trying to cultivate the salty soil, preyed upon by leeches, toiling constantly in near starvation with her fellow ``soldiers,'' Min experiences firsthand the reasons why thousands died in these communes. Forbidden any contact with the opposite sex, Min falls in love with her female squad leader, Yan, and the two have a passionate affair shadowed by the constant threat of discovery and possible execution. Min then has the opportunity to escape the farm and compete for the starring role in comrade Jiang Ching's movie of Madam Mao's latest opera, Red Azalea. She attracts the interest of a man identified only as ``The Supervisor,'' a cultural advisor to Madam Mao, who makes Min the star, at the same time embarking on an affair with her. Min still loves Yan but finally comes to accept that circumstances must always divide them. Production of Red Azalea is curtailed by Mao's death, forcing the Supervisor to go into hiding to save his life. Min works menially in the movie studio for several more years, falling ill with TB, until an actress with whom she worked, who emigrated to America, urges her to emigrate too. The slight awkwardness of her English does not obscure the beauty of Min's poetic, distinctively Chinese diction. A haunting and quietly dramatic coming-of-age story with a cultural cataclysm as its backdrop. Read full book review >