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The Cooked Seed: A Memoir Hardcover – May 7, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Min’s first book, Red Azalea (1994), was an electrifying memoir. Six singular novels followed, including Becoming Madame Mao (2000) and Pearl of China (2010). Now Min returns to her own astonishing life story. She writes, as always, with singeing candor and devastating precision as she chronicles the severe poverty and brutality of her childhood in Shanghai, her grim years in a labor camp, and her friendship with the girl who became the actress Joan Chen and helped Min immigrate to the U.S. But Min’s ordeal was far from over when she arrived in Chicago to attend art school. With no English and no money, she lived in constant fear of deportation while contending with the shock of American racism, exploitative jobs, wretched living conditions, criminal scams, crushing loneliness, illness, even rape. Her brief marriage turned into a living hell when they naively purchase a dilapidated apartment building. But Min gave birth to her daughter and started writing in English, an extraordinary and resounding creative breakthrough that finally set her free. Min’s indomitable and magnificent memoir spans the full spectrum of the human experience, elucidates her noble mission as a writer, and portrays a woman of formidable strength and conviction. “I was broken yet standing determinedly erect. I could be crushed, but I would not be conquered.” --Donna Seaman


“Moving...A uplifting work of incredibly grit and fortitude.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Her memoir methodically reconstructs those painstaking first years in Chicago, living on a pittance, scrounging for work, amazed at what she considered luxurious dorm living, and guilt-ridden at her inability to rescue her family back home. Along the way, she offers candid observations on American naiveté, casual waste, and lack of Chinese stick-to-itness, yet writes poignantly of being treated with decency and warmth, inspiring her to work harder. Watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and reading Jane Eyre helped pave her yellow brick road to literary success, as she delineates captivatingly in this work.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review

“[Min] writes, as always, with singeing candor and devastating precision...Min's indomitable and magnificent memoir spans the full spectrum of the human experience, elucidates her noble mission as a writer, and portrays a woman of formidable strength and conviction.” ―Booklist, starred review

“A landmark memoir gets a moving sequel.” ―Elle

“[The] preeminent chronicler of women's lives in China's ill-starred Cultural Revolution.” ―Elle

“What makes The Cooked Seed different from other immigrant stories is Min's incredible honesty.” ―Los Alamos Daily Post


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; F First Edition edition (May 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596916982
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596916982
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (171 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #573,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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 Joan Chen. Her memoir, Red Azalea, was named one of the New York Times Notable Books of 1994 and was an international bestseller, with rights sold in twenty countries. Her novels Becoming Madame Mao and Empress Orchid were published to critical acclaim and were national bestsellers. Her two other novels, Katherine and Wild Ginger, were published to wonderful reviews and impressive foreign sales.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover
At first glance, Anchee Min's life looks like an American Dream story come true. As a young woman, she moves to the U.S. in hopes of achieving a better life. Once there, she succeeds in getting undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Art Institute of Chicago, builds a family, and becomes a bestselling author. But Min's story is not a simple path from point A to B. In fact, the route she takes to international fame is frequently traumatic, terrifying and devastating. It is a testament to Min's resilience and drive that her story becomes the one told in THE COOKED SEED.

Min grew up during the Cultural Revolution in China and spent her childhood dreaming of being able to fight American enemies in the name of Mao and Communism. But her understanding of the world shifts when she is sent to a collective labor camp at 17. "Discovered" by Madame Mao and chosen to star in propaganda films, she becomes convinced that the only way to avoid a wretched fate is to escape to the U.S. after Mao's death in 1976.

Luck and boldness allow Min to enter the States as a student, despite the fact that she speaks no English and has no one to help her once she arrives in Chicago. Through perseverance, she struggles through her classes, paying her way by working up to five jobs at a time. Her incredible poverty is capped by a number of horrific experiences in Chicago, including multiple robberies and rape. Marrying and divorcing in her mid-30s, she finds herself remaking her life once more, now accompanied by her daughter Lauryann.

Many of the incidents that Min relates casually are hard to believe. Experiencing even one of these terrifying events could be tragedy enough to derail a life. Yet she does not dwell on the miraculous nature of her survival; she simply continues living.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Fairbanks Reader TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As Anchee Min's newest book, The Cooked Seed, opens, she is about to land in Chicago. She has no money except a borrowed $500, does not speak English, and is terrified. She is 27 years old "and life had ended for me in China. I was Madame Mao's trash, which meant that I wasn't worth spit. I was considered a `cooked seed' - no chance to sprout."

By some miracle she has maintained a Visa and is accepted into the Chicago Art Institute. It appears that she has studied very little, if any, art but she attends classes and works several jobs at the same time. She frequently describes herself as crushed, defeated and fearful. Her goal is to get a green card and she has no idea how she can attain one.

Ms. Min was very ill in China and her health is fragile in the United States. She passes out many times and deals with coughing up blood, stomach problems, and other health issues. She has horrible memories of her time in Mao's labor camps and is referred to a psychiatrist but she is unable to open up about her feelings.

She meets a man with whom she lives for six years. However, the relationship is not a good one. He sees himself as a sage and Ms. Min is practical. She works hard and he prefers to sleep or give out words of wisdom. She does have a child with him and Lauryann becomes the love of her life. It is interesting to me how much Ms. Min wanted a boy instead of a girl. This is a very cultural wish.

Reading about the way she raises Lauryann reminded me of the book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Lauryann is raised very strictly and in the Chinese way. She helps her mother with duties like plumbing, electric work, painting, and construction.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By silhouette_of_enchantment on August 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Anchee Min has a beautiful writing style, and a compelling story about her immigration (which was more like an escape from the camps) from China to the United States as an art student. She's also a good friend of Josie Chen (of Twin Peaks fame). Min survived poverty, a devastating rape, sweat shops, and other calamities. She also worked hard, lived through a really bad marriage and divorce, found love again, and raised her daughter.

Although I enjoyed reading her book, I began to question whether or not Min was completely honest. Beautiful, persuasive prose does not mean its factual. She recounted -- at length -- conversations she had (in English) with a college roommate and other friends. At this time, remember, Min immigrated to the country (as a student)only knowing a few words of English. How would she have conversations on race, slavery, President Reagan, friendship, etc; when she first arrived in the country, if she couldn't read or speak English fluently? She was nearly deported when she first touched American shores, because she didn't understand English.

Min even admitted (months after the above conversations took place) that she nearly failed an art course, because she didn't understand English, well, and it took her watching episodes of Sesame Street and other shows to learn the language. So, I found her conversations (when she first immigrated) extremely hard to believe, and made me question other facts she presented in her book.

I wanted to believe Min was being an honest narrator, but by the end, I just started to question her veracity.
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