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A Memoir

by Anchee Min

Pub Date: May 7th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-59691-698-2
Publisher: Bloomsbury

A truly rags-to-riches story from Shanghai to Chicago.

Novelist Min (Pearl of China, 2010, etc.) came through the Cultural Revolution scarred, sickened and with a resolve to survive. While her first book and memoir, Red Azalea (1994), delineated her early, fervent embrace of Mao’s communism, her ordeal working in a labor camp and being “handpicked” (though there was no choice in the matter) by Madame Mao’s film scouts in 1974 to represent the coarsened proletarian worker in her propaganda films, this work reveals the enormous physical and emotional toll those early struggles took on Min, propelling her to reinvent herself in America. Eventually disgraced as "a cooked seed" (no chance to sprout), Min was considered “guilty” along with her entire family; she was left with a “stained dossier” and a pervasive personal sense of humiliation and worthlessness. Thanks to tips from the actress Joan Chen, whom the author had befriended during their time at the Shanghai Film Studio, Min was able to convince the Art Institute of Chicago that she was an artist and fluent speaker of English; her “crazy determination” to get past U.S. immigration officials landed her in Chicago as a student in 1984. Min’s rather dry, grim descriptions of living on visa tenterhooks for years, enduring cruel loneliness, flagrant exploitation at job after job, and appalling living situations, even involving rape, prove moving reading. Always gnawed by her duty to repay her family and send money home to give her mother the toilet of her own she never had, Min felt nonetheless tenderized by being treated as a human being in America rather than a “bug.”

An uplifting work of incredible grit and fortitude.