Anchee Min Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Anchee Min’s first publication, “Red Fire Farm,” was a short story based on her experiences on a Communist collective farm in the People’s Republic of China; it was published in Granta magazine in 1992. The short story formed the basis of Min’s successful 1994 memoir, Red Azalea, which chronicles her early life in mainland China during Mao Zedong’s catastrophic Cultural Revolution. In addition to her memoir and her novels, Min has written, together with Jie Zhang and Duoduo, the text for the 2003 book Chinese Propaganda Posters, which collects reproductions of the mass art of the Mao years in China.

Anchee Min Achievements

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Anchee Min’s memoir Red Azalea won the Carl Sandburg Literary Award and was named a Notable Book of the Year in 1994 by The New York Times. This work established Min’s status as a contemporary writer, and shortly after its publication she turned to writing long fiction. Her novels have fascinated a large audience with their depiction of extraordinary women protagonists who struggle against the hardships of contemporary and historical Chinese society. Min’s first three novels are strong contributions to the growing body of literature about the inhumanity of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Min approaches this topic from the perspective of female protagonists who are outsiders, followers, or prime architects of the disaster. From this group of novels, Min’s work about Madame Mao represents a bridge leading to Min’s next two novels about the life of China’s last empress. Here, Min succeeds in offering her readers a fascinating life story.

Min’s refusal of easy stereotypes in her complex descriptions of women wielding power is a key achievement of her historical fiction. Her interest as a storyteller is in depicting the ambiguous motivations that drive her characters to make controversial choices. As her work is based on close analysis of actual historical sources and documents, Min’s two novels about China’s last empress also support a strong claim for a serious reassessment of the historical person. Written in English, the author’s second language, Min’s novels have been translated internationally, albeit not yet into Chinese.

Anchee Min Bibliography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Huntley, Kristine. Review of Becoming Madame Mao, by Anchee Min. Booklist, March 15, 2000, 1293. Extremely positive review of the novel, which is lauded for its brilliance. Praises Min’s ability to bring to life a complex, demoniac, and yet also very feminine character.

Jolly, Margaretta. “Coming out of the Coming Out Story: Writing Queer Lives.” Sexualities 4, no. 4 (November, 2000): 474-496. Scholarly comparison of Red Azalea to the work of lesbian writer Jan Clausen.

Min, Anchee. “Anchee Min: After the Revolution.” Interview by Roxane Farmanfarmaian. Publishers Weekly 247, 23 (June 5, 2000): 66-67. Interview with Min that offers background information on her life, politics, and worldview.

Quan, Shirley. Review of Becoming Madame Mao, by Anchee Min. Library Journal, March 15, 2000, 128. Remarks on Min’s strong characterization of her historical character, which gives the novel the feeling of a real biography. Corresponds well to Min’s claims that the facts of her novel are all true.

Scott, A. O. “The Re-education of Anchee Min.” The New York Times Magazine, June 18, 2000, 44. Perceptive article outlines Min’s life and work up to the spring of 2000. Based on the author’s visit to Min’s house and his subsequent talk and daylong journey with her and her family. Offers a glimpse at Min’s view of her work and the forces shaping her writing.

Seaman, Donna. Review of Katherine, by Anchee Min. Booklist, April 1, 1995, 1378. Positive review of Min’s first novel.

Smith, Sarah A. Review of Katherine, by Anchee Min. New Statesman and Society, August 25, 1995, 33. Mixed evaluation. Faults Min for overuse of romantic language and false hope. Charges that the style of the novel is too simplistic for its grave subject.

Xu, Wenying. “Agency via Guilt in Anchee Min’s Red Azalea.” MELUS 25, nos. 3/4 (Fall/Winter, 2000): 203-219. Perceptive analysis focusing on Min’s literary reception and her position as a Chinese immigrant in the United States. Concerned with the treatment of ethnic identity by American critics.