Rated Reads

The Cooked Seed

by Anchee Min

Rated: High

Anchee Min spent her growing-up years in China during the violence of the Cultural Revolution. She worked in labor camps and was taught to fear and hate the capitalist Americans. But when she had the chance to leave behind the privations and difficulties of her country, she took it and moved to America. She was granted a visa to study at an art college in Chicago, and she had to find ways to learn English and take classes in that foreign tongue, all while supporting herself and living on next to nothing. She worried constantly about the debt she owed to a family friend who sponsored her to come to the United States and about the possibility of not gaining residency and being sent back to China, letting down her whole family.

When Min finally finished school and later gained residency, she had one less concern, but she still had constant financial troubles. She also was unsure about herself and her whole life. She ended up living with a male Chinese art student for six years, before she decided she wanted a child and got pregnant at age 34. The two then married, but it wasn’t a happy union, and they were divorced within a few years, with Min getting custody of her daughter, moving to California, and trying to raise her with the values of hard work and dedication she wanted her to have, as opposed to the laissez-faire, enjoy-life attitude of her ex.

Even after publishing her first memoir nearly 20 years ago about her early years, Red Azalea, Min struggled in many ways. One might expect her life here to have been more comfortable than what she had in China, but that doesn’t usually seem to have been the case through most of the book. It’s painful to read about the deprivations she endured here in a land of supposed plenty. Despite (and because of) her many challenges, Min eventually finds happiness and security and a sense of who she is, including joy with a new and good husband, and it’s so satisfying to see her journey through to its conclusion.

Rated: High, for eight uses of strong language and some other uses of milder language (the f-words are concentrated in two places, basically). There are fairly brief references to two rapes, one a bit more detailed and upsetting than the other, and some other violence. Other sexual references are brief and fairly mild.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • The Cooked Seed
  • by Anchee Min
  • Rated: High
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Reviewer: