You may recall that I was enthusiastic about Min's first memoir, Red Azalea and her novel Wild Ginger. I expected to like Cooked Seed twice as hard. It starts more or less where Azalea leaves off--at Min's emigration to the US. Somehow, even after the stories of Cultural Revolution privations, cruelties and humiliations in the first part, Seed is harder to take. I guess because you can blame Min's problems on her, or maybe because you have to blame some of her problems on the United States.
Tagged with cultural revolution
I've read a fair amount of Cultural Revolution memoirs and novels. Like the others this story of Jiang's experiences in her early teens is pretty grisly: old folks humiliated and physically abused, children asked to turn against their parents, and a mob mentality ruling everything from the highest reaches of the government to the smallest minds of the neighborhood and school enforcers. The only different is that just a little bit I felt like Jiang doesn't truly get that her privilege (prior to the madness) was a bad thing. That she wasn't a star student because she was inherently good, and that the kids who ended up being red bullies hadn't previously been poor students because they were just stupid. She bemoans the negative effects of her family's wealth and history, but doesn't acknowledge that her family name and fortune had once been just as beneficial as they were now burdensome.
If you're paying much closer attention to my reviews than I think you are, you will recall that I gave a thumbs up to Anchee Min's coming of age in China during the Cultural Revolution story, Wild Ginger, back in July ought eight. Red Azalea covers similar territory, but this time it's openly autobiographical.
"Be careful with that statue," she warned as he turned. Toward the entrance there stood a life-size glow-in-the-dark Mao sculpture, its right hand waving above the head in the air. p.106
"Yes! Do that again Maple, yes!"
"Chairman Mao teaches us…"
"Come on, Evergreen!"
"'People…people of the world, unite and defeat the U.S. aggressors and all their running dogs! People of the world, be courageous, dare to fight, defy difficulties, and advance wave upon waves.'"
"'Keep pushing the cart,' Maple!"
"'Keep pushing the cart until…until we reach the Communist heaven!'"
"Oh Maple, the blind woman is picking the peaches."
"And the blind woman has caught a fat fish—this is a miracle."
"Do the quotations!"
"You armchair revolutionary!"
He groaned, "Oh! Chairman Mao!" p.151
Finally, I'm back to some literary fiction by a woman of color. I apologize if that sounds fetishistic, but seriously, other than vampire books, that's what I like to read best! This coming of age novel takes place in Shanghai during the good old days of the Cultural Revolution and is told by Maple, a poor girl from a suspect family. (Her schoolteacher father made some unfortunate comments about Mao that landed him in jail.) Maple makes friends with Wild Ginger, who is one quarter French and therefore also branded counterrevolutionary. But really, Wild Ginger is a hardcore Maoist whose devotion to the man and the cause first elevate and then destroy her.