Synopses & Reviews
From the best-selling author of Red Azalea, this extraordinary novel tells the stirring, erotically charged story of Madame Mao Zedong, the woman almost universally known as the "white-boned demon," whom many hold directly responsible for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. Bringing her lush psychological insight to bear on the facts of history, Min penetrates the myth surrounding this woman and provides a "convincing, nuanced portrait of a damaged personality" (Entertainment Weekly) driven by ambition, betrayal, and a never-to-be-fulfilled need to be loved. With all the compressed drama and high lyrical poetry of great opera, Becoming Madame Mao is a "remarkable accomplishment...Madame Mao is finally given her own voice" (Ha Jin).
"It is good to find a three-dimensional historic woman in a novel as finely wrought as this. Rhapsodic pithiness throughout. A lovely, brave book that deserves applause." Paul West, author of The Tent of Orange Mist
"This is an audacious but balanced narrative of a mean-spirited woman's life, caught in desire, ambition, and political intrigues. With vivid drama and keen psychological acumen, Anchee Min has rendered the White-boned demon humanMadame Mao is finally given her own voice. A remarkable accomplishment." Ha Jin, author of Waiting
"Anchee Min has created a fascinating portrait of one of the most important and powerful women of the twentieth century. Becoming Madame Mao is a remarkable literary and historical achievement." Lisa See, author of The Flower Net
"Becoming Madame Mao is a riveting study in history and the imagination, and the ways in which we shape our destinies and are at the same time bound by them. Anchee Min plays brilliantly with voices to give us new insight into the character of Madame Mao." Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, author of Sister of My Heart
"Anchee Min, in her brilliant, poetic novel, has personalized that mythical figure, Madame Mao, and in the process has transformed both the woman and the myth, creating as if by magic a modern archetype with a concrete, lived existence here on earth. We will never imagine Madame Mao the same way again. This is historical fiction of the first order." Russell Banks
In a sweeping, erotically charged story that moves gracefully from the intimately personal to the great stage of world history, Anchee Min renders a powerful tale of passion, betrayal, and survival and creates a finely nuanced and always ambiguous portrait of one of the most fascinating, and vilified, women of the twentieth century.
Madame Mao is almost universally known as the "white-boned demon" -- ambitious, vindictive, and cruel -- whose bid to succeed her husband led to the death of millions. But Min's story begins with a young girl named Yunhe, the unwanted daughter of a concubine who ignored her mother's pleas and refused to have her feet bound. It was the first act of rebellion for this headstrong, beautiful, and charismatic girl. She later fled the miseries of her family life, first to a provincial opera troupe, then to Shanghai and fame as an actress, and finally to the arid, mountainous regions of Yenan, where she fell in love with and married Mao Zedong. The great revolutionary leader proved to be an inattentive husband with a voracious appetite for infidelity, but the couple stayed together through the Communist victory, the disastrous Great Leap Forward, and the chaos of the Cultural Revolution.
Min uses the facts of history and her lush, penetrating psychological imagination to take us beyond the myth of the person who so greatly influenced an entire generation of Chinese. The result is a complex portrait of a woman who railed against the confines of her culture, whose deep-seated insecurities propelled her to reinvent herself constantly, and whose ambition was matched only by her ferocious, never-to-be-fulfilled need to be loved. A daring narrative with all the compressed drama and high lyrical poetry of great opera, BECOMING MADAME MAO is the most ambitious and provocative work of Anchee Min's career.
About the Author
Born in Shanghai in 1957, Anchee Min has a personal connection to the story of Madame Mao. At seventeen, she was sent to a labor collective, where after a number of years a talent scout recruited her for Madame Mao's Shanghai Film Studio. There she was trained to play the protagonists in Madame Mao's propaganda films and personally met Jiang Ching and others in her circle, who later provided Min with stories and insights. Min came to the United States in 1984 with the help of the actress Joan Chen. Her memoir, Red Azalea, was named a New York Times Notable Book of 1994 and was an international bestseller, with rights sold in twenty countries. Her first novel, Katharine, was published in 1997. She resides in New York.