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Red Azalea Mass Market Paperback – June 1, 1995

4.2 out of 5 stars 168 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This is an honest and frightening memoir of growing up in Communist China during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Min describes a systematically deprived Shanghai childhood (the family was forced into successively meaner quarters); school days spent as a member of the Red Guard, spouting the words of Chairman Mao and being forced to publicly betray her favorite teacher; and later teen years on a work farm in order to become a peasant because peasants were the only true vanguard of the revolution. The farm years, with their backbreaking workdays and heartbreaking, lonely nights, exemplify the grinding insanity of the Cultural Revolution, the terror and dehumanization it inflicted on ordinary Chinese. Eventually, Min was tapped by the party to be in the propaganda film Red Azalea, during the making of which she suffered more humiliation and political subterfuge. What is so extraordinary is that Min managed to keep a tight hold on her spirit. Her autobiography is not just a coming-of-age story or history lesson; it is a tale of inner strength and courage that transcends time and place. Mary Ellen Sullivan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

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. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; Reprint edition (June 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425147762
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425147764
  • Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 0.9 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (168 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #584,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By frisky2000 VINE VOICE on January 3, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As required reading for a college course on Asian history, I picked up this book one night and finished it the next. It is a heart-stoppingly real, rough and dramatic account of a young woman's ascent and descent in the Red Army during Mao's reign in China. At times I was moved to tears, literally -- while commuting on a subway. I was enthralled with the author's "voice" in telling her own sad, victorious, heart wrenching story from childhood through adulthood. Red Azalea is an important piece of writing which I'd recommend not only to students interested in Chinese history, but to anyone who enjoys a real human story with historical reality.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Anchee Min's raw, abrupt writing style is a good vehicle for this compelling account of her life during China's misbegotten Cultural Revolution. From party loyalist to disillusioned communal farm serf to candidate for the starring role in an important propaganda film, her journey embodies the phrase "the personal is political." Surely few documented lives have been so victimized by politics as hers was. With all its rough edges, her spare, direct prose speaks through remembered pain to put experience into a larger perspective. Leaving the incredibly cramped quarters of her intellectualized family for the huge labor farm was an adventure that quickly soured, redeemed only by the dangerous passion she shared with an admired woman named Yan. The punishment meted out to a heterosexual couple found making love in the fields at night reflects the risks she and Yan were taking. Later, selected as the potential lead for a propaganda film, she competed fiercely with other young women equally desperate to escape the brutalities of farm life. Her story demonstrates how love does not depend on gender. One of the most remarkable sections of this memoir details the efforts she undertook to have a love affair with a party official referred to only as the Supervisor -- trying to connect in the midst of an anonymous crowd at a mountain Buddhist temple, and meeting him after dark in a notorious public park frequented by scores of others searching for love, or sex, in the midst of a regime that repressed sexual expression along with political freedoms.Read more ›
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Anchee Min has created a powerful sense of life in China during its darkest period: the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. The year was 1966, revolution powered by the Red Army just began to crumple the country. 9-year-old Min was the most excellent student in her grade for her revolutionary mind. She had memorized Mao's Little Red Book, secretively criticized her parents' reactionary (counter-revolutionary) behaviors, sang heroic operas raved by Jiang Ching (Madame Mao) and was selected as the head of student Red Guard. Utterly ignorant of the revolution's poignant consequence, Min, afterall, was too young to understand the meaning of public criticisms and purges. Manipulated and brainwashed by the Party members at her school, Min openly criticized and betrayed her most favorite teacher by accusing her as being a spy from the United States.
At the age of 17, Min was told that she needed to be a model to the graduates as a student leader. The ambitious I'll-go-where-Chairman-Mao's-finger-points attitude stirred Min's heart and made her eager to devote herself in hardship at the Red Fire Farm. Upon cancelling her residency in Shanghai, along with million other youths Min joined the Advanced 7th Company to plant rice in leech-filled water along the eastern coast. There Min finally caught up with the terror and hardship of Mao's ambitious revolution. She befriended with and eventually worshippped and fell in love with Party commander Yan. Here Min contrasted the dark horror of Communist China, the purges and the criticisms with her own desirous passion. She picked fight with the deputy commander Lu who diligently sought to catch Yan's mistakes.
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By A Customer on November 6, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
When Anchee Min was 9 years old, she was the perfect revolutionary. She had memorized Mao's Little Red Book, sang heroic operas and was head of her school's Little Red Guard. The year was 1966, and the Cultural Revolution had just begun to turn Chinese society inside out. Too young to understand the public criticisms and purges, Min thought she was fighting for the ''final peace of the planet.'' Then the hardship and terror caught up with her.
Red Azalea is her achingly beautiful memoir of the time, a story remarkable for its absence of anger or recrimination against the Communist Party and Chinese government. Told to serve the revolution as a peasant when she turned 17, Min left her family in Shanghai and joined the Advanced Seventh Company to plant rice near the East China Sea, toiling 16-hour days in muddy, leech- filled water. Two years later she returned to Shanghai to compete with three other women for the title role in Red Azalea, a film project based on the revolution, written by Mao's wife.
**Min contrasts the gray regimen of her society with her own passions, first for a female lover in the army and later for a mysterious man who supervises the production of Red Azalea. Each secret rendezvous and illicit tryst -- whether in a Shanghai bathhouse or a Buddhist temple brimming with scents of incense, jasmine and the crush of worshippers -- is all the more poignant in a country where personal desires are politically dangerous.
Min emigrated to America in 1984, but in Red Azalea she has created a powerful sense of life in China during that country's most heartbreaking time.
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