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Red Azalea: A True Story of Life and Love in China Mass Market Paperback – 1 Jun 1995

4.0 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group; Reprint edition (Jun. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425147762
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425147764
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 2.4 x 18.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,605,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"ÝAn¨ extraordinary story. . . . This memoir of sexual freedom is Ýboth¨ a powerful political as well as literary statement."
--"The New York Times Book Review
""The book sings. It is a small masterpiece. . . ÝNo one¨ has written more honestly and poignantly than Anchee Min about the desert of solitude and human alienation at the center of the Chinese Communist revolution." --"Vogue
""Gripping. . . .reads like raw testimony. . .epic drama, and. . .poetic incantation. . . . It was passion and despair that made ÝMin¨ fearless; it was fearlessness that made her a writer."
--"The New York Times
""Stunning. . . . Min's is a distinct and moving voice speaking out of a cauldron of history."
--"Los Angeles Times Book Review
""Brave and heartbreaking."
--"The" "Miami Herald"

& quot; [An] extraordinary story. . . . This memoir of sexual freedom is [both] a powerful political as well as literary statement.& quot;
-- The New York Times Book Review
& quot; The book sings. It is a small masterpiece. . . [No one] has written more honestly and poignantly than Anchee Min about the desert of solitude and human alienation at the center of the Chinese Communist revolution.& quot; -- Vogue
& quot; Gripping. . . .reads like raw testimony. . .epic drama, and. . .poetic incantation. . . . It was passion and despair that made [Min] fearless; it was fearlessness that made her a writer.& quot;
-- The New York Times
& quot; Stunning. . . . Min's is a distinct and moving voice speaking out of a cauldron of history.& quot;
-- Los Angeles Times Book Review
& quot; Brave and heartbreaking.& quot;
-- The Miami Herald

"[An] extraordinary story. . . . This memoir of sexual freedom is [both] a powerful political as well as literary statement."
"The New York Times Book Review
""The book sings. It is a small masterpiece. . . [No one] has written more honestly and poignantly than Anchee Min about the desert of solitude and human alienation at the center of the Chinese Communist revolution." "Vogue
""Gripping. . . .reads like raw testimony. . .epic drama, and. . .poetic incantation. . . . It was passion and despair that made [Min] fearless; it was fearlessness that made her a writer."
"The New York Times
""Stunning. . . . Min's is a distinct and moving voice speaking out of a cauldron of history."
"Los Angeles Times Book Review
""Brave and heartbreaking."
"The" "Miami Herald"" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

An outstanding account of growing up in China¿s Cultural Revolution --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Set during the confusion of the Cultural Revolution in communist China; Red Azalea is the true story of the author's rise through the echelons of the Red Guard and Chinese society. Her story is one of deprivation, love and the dichotomy between feelings and duty in a politically charged environment of fear and paranoia difficult to perceive from the contemporary western experience.
Min's story begins in 1957 when she was born into the death throw years of Mao's 'Great Leap Forward'. The eldest of four children, Min learned the meaning of duty raising her brother and two sisters whilst her parents worked continually in a struggle to survive. This dedication to duty came to fruition when in her early years at school Min was made leader of the 'little red guard' and so began her love hate relationship with the communist party. Her journey takes her to the Red Fire Farm where she is assigned to life as a peasant. It is here that she enters a world of betrayal and awakening sexuality, which are the key themes of the book. Condemned to a enforced world of single sexed sterility, she witnesses a friends spiral into insanity and suicide, following her 'capture' in the act of love with a man. From this point Min struggles to juxtapose her sexual feelings with the demands of the party and it is these feelings that start to dismantle her political beliefs.
She finds solace in the arms of Yan, the Party secretary and commander of her work company and so begins a furtive lesbian relationship under the constant watch of Comrade Lu, who seeks Yan's position of power. The affair ends in tragedy and sacrifice when Min is awarded a chance to compete for the role of Red Azalea, a communist party film being produced in Shanghai.
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Format: Paperback
If you have read Wild Swans and enjoyed it, this is another must for you. It is a powerful personal account of how the Chinese repressed sexuality, and the desperate measures people went to to express their feelings. It is beautifully written, erotic but also an important historical testimony that should be heard. Throughout the author's courage and integrity shine through. Fascinating.
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Format: Paperback
This is an enjoyable and unique true story of a girl's childhood, inprisonment on a farm commune and acting career. The passeges on Min's relationships both romantic and platonic are moving and never feel overly sentimental and her description of life in communist China is revealing without needing to go into facts and figures. What brings the book most to life is the illustrations of the people she has met (especially on the farm)- Min's descriptions of them are so life like we can see them as if we were there.
The only bad thing about this book is the slower pace of the second half- making it inadvertantly less exciting than what has come before. All in all a very rewarding read which is easy to get through and very touching.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
If Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China is too thick (or too earnest) for you - pick up a copy of Red Azalea. It is another Mao-era autobiography, but here the pill is sugared with eroticism. For example the tragedy of feminine Little Green's rebellion.

It also sounds like Anchee Min is worked more brutally than Jung Chang. Her family does not have the same connections. But both women describe the secrecy and guile necessary to retain dignity under the totalitarian regime, and both ultimately escape to the West.

This book does not have the same sweep as Wild Swans but it better describes the hardships of the collective farms, and the complex characters and interrelationships of the women with whom she worked. By reading both books a clearer picture of Maoist China emerges. Ultimately though I'd reread this book for sheer pleasure.
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Format: Paperback
For a start the book's jacket told me all that would happen, it just took a very long time to get there. Min is very fond of metaphors! Her metaphorical descriptions just were too many and too frequent for me. I know from the book jacket that she is going to have an affair with her commander at the farm she had been assigned to, Min built up and built up her feelings in the run up to the affair so much, that I had lost interest by the time it happened. There is a very interesting in-sight into the life of a peasant in Communist China, but it gets lost in the descriptive ramble.
I would have to say there are better books about this time in China, such as Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah, but if you go for this book, I suggest you don't read the synopsis first! It is one of the few books, that I was relieved to reach the end of.
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Format: Paperback
Anchee Min's book about her life during and after the Cultural Revolution is rather naive. She doesn't even mention the real reason behind the CR, namely the fact that Mao lost the majority in the Central Committee and unleashed the youth in order to regain his power, causing millions of deaths (see Simon Leys: The new Clothes of Chairman Mao.)
The only comment on the CR in this book reads as follows:'Jiang Ching's unfulfilled desire ... that made ancient tragedies stir the souls and foster civilizations. And it was that very same desire that sparkled the flame of the Great Cultural Revolution.'(p.250)
This comment is also an extremely flattery (an euphemism) portrait of Mrs. Mao ('She was a heroine.' p. 243), while it was not a secret that she took control of the Cultural Ministry to take revenge (by tortures and assassinations) on all people (e.g. movie directors) who had refused to give her major roles in their movies.
As a member of the Gang of Four she tried to take Mao's place after his death. For a formidable portrait of Mrs. Mao I recommend Lucien Bodard's masterpiece 'Le Chien de Mao'.
The work camp scenes, the erotic encounters and the mass rally to insult a forged 'class enemy' are more convincing. They show us that each member of the Red Guard had to loose its individuality and privacy (no sex, no secrecy, no free speech, mass confessions) and had to be a 'cog in a big revolutionary machine'. It was a jail life under the iron fist of the proletarian revolution with the slogan 'killing the chickens to shock the monkeys'.
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