Wild Ginger

Anchee Min

Houghton MIfflin Harcourt, 2002

Agent: Sandra Dijkstra

The beautiful, iron-willed Wild Ginger is only in elementary school when we first meet her, but already she has been singled out by the Red Guards for her "foreign-colored eyes." Her classmate Maple is also a target of persecution. It is through the quieter, more skeptical Maple, a less than ardent Maoist whose father is languishing in prison for a minor crime, that we see this story to its tragic end. 

The Red Guards have branded Wild Ginger's deceased father a traitor and eventually drive her mother to a gruesome suicide, but she fervently embraces Maoism to save her spirit. She rises quickly through the ranks and is held up as a national model for Maoism. Wild Ginger now has everything, even a young man who vies for her heart. But Mao's prohibition on romantic love places her in an untenable position. Into this sexually charged situation steps Maple, creating an uneasy triangle that Min has portrayed with keen psychological insight and her characteristic gift for lyrical eroticism.

“Some of the most compelling, beautiful writing in the novel comes in Anchee’s vivd descriptions of the life and times of ordinary people under Maoist rule…The novel’s greatest strength [is] it’s intensity and stripped down focus...It is difficult for an American in 2002 to understand what China underwent at the height of the Communist era…It is to Anchee’s great credit that her novel invites us to imagine vividly what such an experience might be like.”
Baltimore Sun
“For Chinese-born Anchee Min, history is an earthquake that swallowed most of her generation…Her gut-wrenching memoir ‘Red Azalea’ has set the tone for all of her writing…The novel ‘Wild Ginger’ dramatizes the same territory…Whether describing a profound inhumanity or gushing a commonplace, she gets up in a reader’s grille with her passion. After her brilliant memoir and three breathlessly in-your-face novels…she continues to be an important witness to the madness of Maoism and how it crushed and wrenched so many millions of lives.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“A striking story of love and betrayal re-creates the terror and animosities that informed the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s. Min provides a rare insider’s glimpse into daily life under the worst depredations of the Maoist regime…Fascinating, moving, and marvelously strange…Min opens the door to a world that is at once terrible and compelling.”
Kirkus Review

“Min has created a memorable, unsettling love story using the horrors of Maoism.”
Publishers Weekly

“In lean, expressive prose, Min recounts the lives of several young people caught up in the Cultural Revolution…Min deftly encapsulates world-historical events in the lives of ordinary people…Her fully realized characters snag our interest and evoke our sympathy as they engage in acts of bravery or daring…She also has a talent for mixing irony with humor…Highly recommended for all literate readers…”
Library Journal