Encountering Min and Mao

Friday, April 9, 2010 - 7:05 am

Encountering Min and Mao

Being new on the staff, I love hearing older programs that are new to me. Preparing for the Mayfair Yang show this week, Krista mentioned a past conversation with author Anchee Min, whose name came up again the next day when we received a copy of her latest book, Pearl of China.
Her interview in “Surviving the Religion of Mao” is a personal view into life growing up in Communist China, and as a devoted member of the Red Guard.
Anchee MinAn emotionally critical event occurred when she, as an 11-year old child, was told to publicly denounce her favorite teacher:

“I was awarded by the school and the principal and the entire district, the neighborhood, with red color, the certificate of Mao’s Good Child. And I was so proud. I was the child, the best child in the neighborhood, and yet my mother refused to put that certificate on the wall. She was not happy and told me she wants to disown me. And I was very confused. But she said something. She said, ‘Your father and I are teachers. Imagine if our student come up and denounce us, how I feel?’ She instill this common sense in me that conflict with my vanity and my devotion to Mao’s words.”

She also reflects on embracing her identity as an adult:

“I feel that I am more Chinese in America than I could feel if I was in China. You know, the moment I step on my motherland in China, my guard will be up. I talk differently, behave differently.”

Her conversation touches on the Buddhist traditions of her grandparents, her mother hiding her Christianity even to her own daughter, and on the weight of choice in her life:

“…when I learned that my brother and my sister were rejected by American visas, and the American Consulate says that the only chance that they can come to America is to study is to have me go back, to exchange, which means I would go back to China for good, and I was not able to quit, you know, what I had achieved here. And that was a very selfish act. And after I made that decision, then I talked to my father. I said, ‘I couldn’t live with it.’ So I told my father that I want to come and to let my sister have the chance. And my father says, ‘No way, because you come home that doesn’t mean that they will get the visa, and that you will lose your visa for good. And my biggest fear is if China were to ever have a conflict with America, you will be the first person to be denounced as American spy.’ So, I ended up staying here.”

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is the cofounder of On Being and currently serves as publisher & editor-in-chief. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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