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Best-Selling Memoirist and Novelist Anchee Min to Give Reading at Pomona College

Author Anchee Min, best known for her international bestselling memoir, Red Azalea, the story of her childhood in communist China, will talk about her work and give a reading at Pomona College on Thursday, February 16 at 7 p.m.

This event will be held in the Edmunds Ballroom, Smith Campus Center (170 E. Sixth St., Claremont) and is sponsored by the Associated Students of Pomona College.

Since the completion of her memoir Red Azalea, Min has written four subsequent works of historical fiction: Katherine, Becoming Madame Mao, Wild Ginger and Empress Orchid. The books attempt to re-record histories that have been falsely written. “If my own history is recorded falsely, how about other people?” she asks. Both critics and writers have praised her work, calling it “historical fiction of the first order.”

Min credits English 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,” Min 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.”

As a girl, Min learned to write “Long live Chairman Mao,” before she learned to write her own name. She was devoted to Mao and to communism, memorizing Mao's Little Red Book and joining the student Red Guard. Sent to a labor camp at the age of 17, Min did not consider it a prison sentence, but an act of devotion to her country.

She worked for three years before talent scouts spotted her toiling in a cotton field. Madame Mao, preparing to take over China, was looking for a leading actress for a propaganda film. Min was selected for having the ideal “proletarian” look. Mao died before the film was complete, and Madame Mao, blamed for the disaster of the revolution, was sentenced to death. Min was labeled a political outcast by association. She was disgraced, punished, and forced to perform menial tasks in order to reform herself.

In 1984, with the help of a friend in the United States, Min left China and came to America. She spoke no English when she arrived in Chicago, but within six months had taught herself the language—in part by watching American television.

For further information about this event, call: (909) 621-8610.

Pomona College is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions, offering a comprehensive program in the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Its hallmarks include small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research.