During her author lunch hosted by Diesel, A Bookstore, Anchee Min kept all of us completely mesmerized by her stories. Having lived half her life in China and the other half in the United States, she sees both cultures from the inside and how each views the other. Her life experience is fascinating. Here are some snippets:
Chairman Mao and Madam Mao
It was intriguing for me, as an American, to hear Mao spoken of in favorable terms. Min learned how to write his name before her own. She describes him as a poet and philosopher. Min understands Chairman Mao because she studied him. She read what he read. She believes one can learn about a person from what they read (which is an interesting, and maybe frightening, thought).
Min sees Madam Mao as the person responsible for Cultural Revolution. Min respects Madam Mao, the fact that she unbound her feet, that she found and fell in love with Mao and then suffered with him to became the first lady of China. However, Min believes that to retain the love of one man, Madam Mao started the Cultural Revolution in an effort to protect him, and millions died. When Chairman Mao was dying (Min and the population didn’t know it at time, it was unthinkable that he would be sick or die), Madam Mao tried to secure her position by planning a propaganda campaign and she needed “peasant representatives.” Min was one of the candidates, scouted in labor camp and sent to a studio in Shanghai. She was told how to look, eat and drink. In the midst of her training, on 9/9/76, Mao died. Several weeks later, Madam Mao was arrested and condemned. The training program ended and Min was denounced as one of Madam Mao’s protegys.
Min didn’t think of being a writer when she was young. Even thinking about that type of profession was completely foreign to Min in a culture where no one thought of themselves as an individual. She wanted to be a martyr. She followed Mao’s saying that it was wrong to preserve life at the expense of humanity. Her goal was to go to Vietnam to fight against Americans in order to save American babies who the Chinese were told were starving in the streets. For her, glory would be to be blown up there and then the remains wrapped up in Chinese flag and delivered to her family. She would be a hero. Her would be family sad, but honored. She volunteered to be martyr, but was rejected. One person at lunch said what could have changed or influenced her thinking, drawing the parallel to the terrorist of today. She said it’s brainwashing and couldn’t think of a response. She also noted that every culture has its own brainwashing and here it is materialism. Our constant bombardment of advertising sends the message that buying and owning things will make a good life.
Min knew if stayed in China she would die and that she would have a chance in America. In order to obtain a visa, she needed to understand English which she didn’t know. She memorized her statement to the consulate. Min couldn’t let him interrupt her because then he would discover that she didn’t speak English. She passed the consulate interview, but was caught in customs and told to go to deportation room. The translator came over and Read the rest of this entry »