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posted: 5/14/2013 6:00 AM

Min's life explored in new memoir

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  • "The Cooked Seed" by Anchee Min

    "The Cooked Seed" by Anchee Min

Associated Press

In the dedication of her latest book, "A Cooked Seed," best-selling Chinese author Anchee Min thanks her daughter for "making (her) write this book." One cannot help but wonder why -- with such a powerful story to tell -- Min waited until now to share it. And then, as her rollicking tale takes off and we've forgiven her for the delay, we eagerly join her in a second round of heartfelt thanks to Lauryann.

Min, whose first memoir, "Red Azalea," told the story of her youth in China growing up under the leadership of Chairman Mao and introduced many to the true horrors of that regime, picks up here where she left off. It's 1984, she's 27 and on a plane bound for Chicago with a $500 loan in her pocket, no understanding of English and only a vague plan to study art.

After Mao died and his wife was overthrown, Min was quickly discarded by society, considered "a cooked seed," one that would never sprout. Like generations of immigrants before her, Min bore her family's burden of heading to America to save herself and rescue them all from a life of poverty.

With that heavy weight on her shoulders, Min faces unbelievable hardship, financial challenges and just plain rotten luck.

Min's writing is as beautiful and compelling as always here, and as we learn how she taught herself English -- how else, but by watching TV -- and later how she finds her literary voice, her talent is even more astounding.

The only time the narrative peters out is when Min goes into too much detail about her American, Vietnam vet husband. I found myself wanting to know less about him and more about her and her feelings for and her relationship with him.

But, overall, "A Cooked Seed" will hook you and stay with you for a long time.

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