Two girls come of age during the horrors of China’s Cultural Revolution in this novel by the national bestselling author of Empress Orchid.
The young and beautiful Wild Ginger is only in elementary school, but has already survived hell through her sheer iron will. Singled out by the Red Guards for her “foreign-colored eyes,” she has seen her deceased father branded a traitor and her mother commit suicide under the oppressive weight of persecution. But the young Wild Ginger will not allow herself to be taken down. Nor will she turn her back on other martyrs—like sweet Maple, daughter of a teacher of Chinese history, survivor of a labor camp, and victim of daily brutal beatings by a gang girl called Hot Pepper.
While the two become fast friends over their shared ostracism, it is Wild Ginger who will take her Maoist principles to the extreme, becoming no less than a national model for the revolutionary Communist doctrine. But when both self-possessed young girls begin to feel a prohibited romantic love for the same boy, all three of them will face mortal danger.
In this novel, the author of Pearl of China and the New York Times Notable Book Red Azalea “continues her extraordinarily acute inquiry into the wounded psyches of martyrs…and survivors of China's horrific Cultural Revolution… As in all her unsparing, compelling, and transcendent books, Min discerns both the vulnerability and strength of individuals and, more disturbingly, unveils the eroticism of pain. Given our own times, Min's taut and compassionate tale of oppressed teenagers kept in ignorance of the wider world, children brainwashed into performing acts of violence and self-destruction, is especially urgent.”—Booklist
A happy ending is relative to what precedes it in this case, it stands in contrast to a horrific, true-to-life story about two girls growing up in Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution. In the late '60s and early '70s, Chairman Mao ruled omnipotently, and his followers took up arms in his name. Being a Maoist involved self-sacrifice, and that war between personal wants and the movement's needs indirectly pits Min's protagonists against one another. Sweet, na ve Maple is saved from her usual beating by class bully Hot Pepper when new kid Wild Ginger stands up for both of them. This is no ordinary blacktop brawl: Hot Pepper and her gang members wield umbrellas like spears, stabbing their victims until they give up or collapse. Since Hot Pepper constantly invokes Maoist principles as rationale for her actions, the teachers dare not interfere for fear of being branded anti-Maoist and taken prisoner by the Red Guard or worse. Opposites in most ways, Maple and Wild Ginger become best friends over their shared ostracism. Their friendship is tested when a boy called Evergreen falls for Wild Ginger, whose extreme devotion to Mao conflicts with her natural impulses. Maple herself can't decide who she loves best Wild Ginger or Evergreen and her dilemma leads her to put herself in mortal danger. Min (Becoming Madame Mao; Red Azalea) has created a memorable, unsettling love story using the horrors of Maoism which she experienced firsthand as a backdrop. 8-city author tour.