Books & Books, Coral Gables. Apr 20, 2011. 8:00 p.m.
Anchee Min was born in Shanghai and lived in China for 27 years. During the Cultural Revolution, she was ordered to denounce Pearl Buck as an American imperialist. Here is the incident in her own words, as well as what led Min back to Pearl Buck:
“I was ordered to denounce Pearl Buck in China. The year was 1971. I was a teenager attending the Shanghai 51 Middle School. Trying to gain international support to reject Pearl Buck’s entry visa (to accompany President Nixon to China), Madam Mao organized a national campaign to criticize Pearl Buck as an “American cultural imperialist.”
I followed the order and never doubted whether or not Madam Mao was being truthful. I was brainwashed at that time, although I did remember having difficulty composing the criticisms. I wished that I had been given a chance to read The Good Earth. We were told that the book was so “toxic” that it was dangerous to even translate it. I was told to copy lines from the newspapers: “Pearl Buck insulted Chinese peasants therefore China.” “She hates us therefore is our enemy.” I was proud to be able to defend my country and people.
Pearl Buck’s name didn’t cross my path again until I immigrated to America. It was 1996 and I was giving a reading at a Chicago bookstore for my memoir, Red Azalea. Afterward, a lady came to me and asked if I knew Pearl Buck. Before I could reply, she said – very emotionally and to my surprise – that Pearl Buck had taught her to love the Chinese people. She placed a paperback in my hands and said that it was a gift. It was The Good Earth.
I finished reading The Good Earth on the airplane from Chicago to Los Angeles. I broke down and sobbed. I couldn’t stop myself because I remembered how I had denounced the author. I remembered how Madam Mao had convinced the entire nation to hate Pearl Buck. How wrong we were! I had never encountered any author, including the most respected Chinese authors, who wrote about our peasants with such admiration, affection, and humanity.
It was at that very moment that Pearl of China was conceived.
In this ambitious new novel, Min brings to life a courageous and passionate woman who is now hailed in China as a modern heroine. Like nothing before it, Pearl of China tells the story of one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers, from the perspective of the people she loved and of the land she called home.
Anchee Min was born in Shanghai in 1957. During the Cultural Revolution, she was ordered to denounce Pearl S. Buck as an American imperialist. At seventeen, Min was sent to a labor collective, where a talent scout for Madam Mao’s Shanghai Film Studio recruited her to work as an actress in propaganda films. Min moved to the United States in 1984. Her first book, the memoir Red Azalea, became an international bestseller. She has also published five previous novels: Empress Orchid and The Last Empress, set during the last years of Imperial China; and Katherine, Becoming Madame Mao, and Wild Ginger, set during the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath. Her books have been translated into thirty-two languages.
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