On Thursday, April 24th, international best-selling author Anchee Min will speak at a Northern Michigan event hosted by Traverse City’s National Writers Series in partnership with Northwestern Michigan College’s International Affairs Forum. The literary event, which will take place at Traverse City’s City Opera House, will be moderated by Ron Hogan, an editor and literature commentator. The evening’s proceedings begin at 7 pm.
Anchee Min made her literary debut with Red Azalea, a critically acclaimed memoir of growing up in China during the violent trauma of the Cultural Revolution. Red Azalea was an international bestseller, optioned for a film by Oprah Winfrey, named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and has been compared to The Diary of Anne Frank.
The eldest child of poor Shanghai intellectuals, Anchee Min was a model student, a leader in the Red Guard, and a devotee of the teachings of Mao Tse-tung. At 17, she was identified as a “peasant” and was sent to a brutal agricultural labor camp. During years of hard labor at the camp a talent scout for Madame Mao’s Shanghai Film Studio recruited her to work as a movie actress.
Two decades later her follow-up memoir, The Cooked Seed, picks up where Red Azalea left off. She arrives in America in 1984 with $500 in her pocket, no English and a plan to study art in Chicago. Min teaches herself English by watching Sesame Street, keeps herself afloat working five jobs at once, lives in unheated rooms, suffers rape, collapses from exhaustion, marries poorly and divorces. But she also gives birth to her daughter, Lauryann, who will inspire her and finally root her in her new country.
Min’s writing has been praised for its raw, sharp language and historical accuracy. Min credits the English language with giving her a means to express herself, arming her with the voice and vocabulary to write about growing up during China’s Cultural Revolution. “There was no way for me to describe those experiences or talk about those feelings in Chinese,” she has said of a language too burdened by Maoist rhetoric. Today, she writes candidly about events she was once encouraged to bury. The New York Times has called her “a wild, passionate and fearless American writer.”
Tickets for the symposium start at $20, and are available at CityOperaHouse.org.