Book of the week–Wild Ginger by Anchee Min

Wild Ginger by Anchee Min

Last month my college friend Dina heard Anchee Min speak in New York. When she raved about Min’s lecture, I thought back to how much I loved reading Red Azalea (Pantheon, 1994), Katherine (Berkley Trade, 2001), and Becoming Madame Mao (Mariner, 2001).

So I decided to pick up where I left off and read Wild Ginger (Mariner, 2002).

Set during the Cultural Revolution, the novel centers around a dangerous love triangle involving Shanghai teenagers. Wild Ginger is one-quarter French and branded a traitor because of her paternal grandfather’s lineage. Because she’s an outcast, she devotes her life to becoming the perfect Maoist, even if it means betraying her best–and only–friend and the man they both love.

I enjoyed Wild Ginger for its stark depiction of the suppressed emotions people had to endure in the name of patriotism back then. While I preferred Red Azalea and Becoming Madame Mao, I recommend Wild Ginger if you’re looking for a quick read and insight into a lost generation.


  1. Ali Swanson says

    Heh, there was a time when I could not get enough Zhang Yimou – I dragged disinterested boyfriends to his movies and was crushed when they ‘didn’t get it’. Lol. I think “Ju Dou” was the first movie of his that I saw – then “RtRL”. I loved how eating was subtle theme in many of his films – there is something about watching his characters eat that never fails to make me hungry and long for China!

    I like WKW, too – I really enjoyed “In the Mood for Love” and “2046” – top notch cinema, IMHO. I haven’t seen any of his more recent releases. Have you seen any of Chen Kaige’s stuff? I’ve only ever seen “Farewell My Concubine” – let me know if you recommend others!

    • Susan Blumberg-Kason says

      That’s funny! I think I saw ‘Ju Dou’ first, too. I remember the colors more than the food, so should watch them again. I love those WKW movies, too. “Chungking Express” was the first of his I saw–right after I moved back to HK in ’94. I like Chen Kaige, too! “Temptress Moon” was good and his first one, “Yellow Earth” reminded me to early Zhang Yimou. That was from ’84! Have you seen any Tian Zhuangzhuang movies? I vaguely remember “The Horse Thief” and “The Blue Kite”. It’s been too long!

  2. Ali Swanson says

    I will have to look up this book – ‘sounds great. So, are you a fan of the Zhang Yimou films? Back when he was cranking one out every couple of years, I _lived_ for his flicks. I remember bawling my way through “To Live”, and I just adored the cinematography of “Raise the Red Lantern”.

    • Susan Blumberg-Kason says

      Oh, I love Zhang Yimou! My favorites of his were when he and Gong Li were still together. The ones you mentioned, plus “Ju Dou”, “The Story of Qiu Ju”, “Red Sorghum”, and even “Shanghai Triad” (which is the last I saw of his until he came out with “House of Flying Daggers” [a la “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”]). Chinese films in the 90s were so good! My favorite Hong Kong director is Wong Kar-Wai. I’ll have to post something about him!


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