The Cooked Seed: A Memoir

The Cooked Seed: A Memoir

Anchee Min

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: 160819423X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In 1994, Anchee Min made her literary debut with a memoir of growing up in China during the violent trauma of the Cultural Revolution. Red Azalea became an international bestseller and propelled her career as a successful, critically acclaimed author. Twenty years later, Min returns to the story of her own life to give us the next chapter, an immigrant story that takes her from the shocking deprivations of her homeland to the sudden bounty of the promised land of America, without language, money, or a clear path.

It is a hard and lonely road. She 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 eventual successes-her writing career, a daughter at Stanford, a second husband she loves-are remarkable, but it is her struggle throughout toward genuine selfhood that elevates this dramatic, classic immigrant story to something powerfully universal.

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American college. Do you understand? You will become a burden on our society!” “I’ll be nobody’s burden. I don’t need much to live. I’m an excellent laborer. I’ll deport myself if I don’t speak English in three months!” “Miss Min …” “Oh, please, my feet are on American soil! I might not be able to communicate, but I can draw. I’ll make people understand me. Look, here are pictures of my paintings. I am going to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago—” The translator looked at my paintings

I failed in America. I’d go where I would be appreciated, and that included China. Part of my purpose in returning home was to explore my options. My family was quiet as they listened. I could see confusion, uneasiness, and disapproval on their faces. I went on, certain that they would understand and support me. I told them that I was inspired by a newspaper clipping Father had sent me. It was the story of rural China, a village principal, and the only teacher, who was dying of cancer. He

summoned his daughter to take over his teaching position. The fourteen-year-old daughter sacrificed her middle school education in order to help her father. “I’d like to help promote public education in China!” I said. I told my family that I could see myself as a teacher. I would make use of my degree in visual art. I would also introduce American pop music: It would be good to hear Chinese people say “I love you.” Love would be a great new theme to explore. One could learn a great deal about

China?” I told him that I missed everything Chinese, especially reading. “That’s strange,” he responded. “Most would say that they miss Chinese food.” “I have been avoiding speaking the mother tongue for years.” “Why?” he looked at me intently. “How can you?” “It is the only way to learn English. Survival depends on my ability to communicate.” He smiled and said that my English sounded excellent. “You are not bad yourself,” I complimented him. “Where did you learn to speak English?” He

dropped to zero. I understood that most authors in America supported themselves by working other jobs. Since I was not able to get any other job, I decided to do what I had done before. I bought a run-down four-unit apartment property and set my mind to fix it. I took out a loan and put in every dollar I had saved as a down payment. Lauryann helped me even though she was only six years old. In the beginning, it proved to be a challenge, because she had been raised as an “American princess.” “I

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