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The Cooked Seed: A Memoir

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  1,360 ratings  ·  265 reviews
In 1994, Anchee Min made her literary debut with a memoir of growing up in China during the violent trauma of the Cultural Revolution. Red Azalea became an international bestseller and propelled her career as a successful, critically acclaimed author. Twenty years later, Min returns to the story of her own life to give us the next chapter, an immigrant story that takes her ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Bloomsbury USA (first published January 1st 2013)
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Heather Fineisen
Anchee Min does not dwell on hardship. She does not dwell on emotion. The Cooked Seed picks up where her previous memoir, Red Azalea left off, focusing on her move to the United States in 1984 and her unwavering goal of getting a green card. The immigration experience can arguably rival her experience in the labor collective in China. Working on Madame Mao's propaganda films and in the labor camps, Min at least knows the language and the rules. She does not make excuses regarding either place.

Dec 25, 2014 Lisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: memoir
There are two major themes in this memoir as far as I see it. The first is Foreignness. Anchee Min does not shield the reader from her foreignness, even when it may alienate her. I've read a lot of reviews that say they didn't like Min; how she handles her daughter, how she deals with people, her relationship with her ex-husband, her current husband, her family in China, etc. But I don't think the point of this book was to LIKE Anchee Min. It was for Min to give us her most honest self. And that ...more
I *love* Min's Red Azalea...this book, not so much. I would give the first half about 3 stars, but the last half, one (or less than one). The story of emigrating to America via a college acceptance in Chicago is interesting and made me think of the students I know (who enter college without a firm grasp of English yet who often refuse, for complex reasons, to take ESL classes). The second half of the book unfortunately describes an excruciating relationship which, frankly, gets boring after a wh ...more
I am listening to this book on CDs, but cannot locate this edition on Goodreads. Anyway, I have followed Anchee Min for years, and enjoyed "The Red Azalea" the most, but also her historical novels. This is the latest memoir. I could not help but want to read this. Having emigrated from another Communist country (Russia) myself, and having lived in Chicago for close to 20 years, I find a lot of very personal connections to Min's story. I was so much more fortunate, knew English well, had 3 yrs of ...more
Bonnie Brody
As Anchee Min’s newest book, The Cooked Seed, opens, she is about to land in Chicago. She has no money except a borrowed $500, does not speak English, and is terrified. She is 27 years old “and life had ended for me in China. I was Madame Mao’s trash, which meant that I wasn’t worth spit. I was considered a ‘cooked seed’ – no chance to sprout.”

By some miracle she has maintained a Visa and is accepted into the Chicago Art Institute. It appears that she has studied very little, if any, art but she
Because she comes to Chicago, I know exactly where/what and the how of what she remembers about her first American years. This is more than just a memoir to me. She knows my Chicago in all my time periods living there- for many of those over 50 years. The South side and SW sides. The academic and job struggles after 3 bus exchanges have taken all your hours. And it is not a Chicago that is often represented at all, as it actually is or was. Not in movies, tv nor in books. The Chicago that houses ...more
Petra X
The story of an over-achiever who starts off right at the bottom and remains there for a very long time of her own choice whilst building up her future. Clever woman, clever writer, her story is as interesting as she is.

Having read The Cooked Seed a couple of times and feeling like I want my five hours back, I realize that I want certain things from a book. I want the heroine to be likeable. I want her to have a dream. I want her actions to make some type of sense.
Anchee is extremely judgmental. She criticizes: anyone in art school that actually wants to be an artist, anyone with rich parents, people who do small loads of laundry, welfare recipients, faculty that think they deserve better pay, attempted suicid
The first part of the book had me enthralled as I read about the author's life in Communist China and the tremendous hardship she and her family endured. I admired her resolve to find a better life for herself, and to do whatever it takes. Once she made it to the US,I felt as I got to "know" her a little more, that I really did not "like" her. I cringed as she made one poor decision after another- which, certainly the language barrier contributed to, but she was also terribly naive.

What really g
Once upon a time, I had a vague idea that I grew up poor in a trailer park in South Carolina. Then I read Angela's Ashes and never again thought I was poor.

Once upon a time, I had a vague idea I had worked hard from time to time. Then I read The Cooked Seed and again, my view of myself was redefined completely.

Anchee Min came to the US on the wings of a lie and stayed here by clawing her way to a green card through amazing determination and hard work. Really hard work. And here is her story, tol
Mary Frances
I really love Anchee Min's work, and this memoir is touching and a compelling read. It provides such a window into the author's psyche. As a story of cultural dislocation and of the lasting impact of hardship and fear, it's vital reading. On some level it reminds me of Angela's Ashes, though very different, it is a story of struggle and survival. I was amazed to learn that Red Azalea was written when the author was still struggling with the English language. I have an affection for good memoirs ...more
Mary Lou
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
No le deseo ni a mi peor enemigo lo que tuvo que sufrir Anchee Min a su llegada a Estados Unidos desde la China comunista. Poca gente habrá en el mundo con la fuerza de voluntad y terquedad de esta mujer para salir adelante como lo hizo. Ha sido un libro muy duro de leer, pero rebosa sentimiento y dulzura por cada pasaje; es por eso que lo recomiendo mucho, pero hay que evitar estar en una etapa muy sensible para poder disfrutarlo bien.

«La ópera china Los amantes mariposa me enseñó que no había
I am having trouble overcoming the fact that the author effectively cheated and lied to get her way into America when she was young. Call it survival instinct. Call it 'wanting a better future'. It just feels wrong.

If it wasn't still happening even to these days, it would have been easy to overlook it. Unfortunately experiences such as her are still repeated by unscrupulous Asian students who do no possess any sense of integrity/morality in trying to make their way to the US or get a Green card
Diane S ❄
This book and Anchee Min embodies the meaning of human perseverance and determination. She is only 55 but has already lived so many different lives. The resilience she had to have had to survive the cultural revolution China and the fortitude to find a way to live and come to the United States where she did not know the language nor did she have someone waiting for her. That she became a successful author is amazing. This book is straightforward, not emotional, just matter of fact. This is what ...more
I found Red Azalea a somewhat frustrating read because of the halting English, but Anchee Min's story was so fascinating that I couldn't resist picking up this follow-up memoir.

Her Chinese immigrant story is, in many ways, just like every other Chinese immigrant story from that period, full of deprivation and horror, guilt and self-doubt, and the ceaseless worry about "making it" and repaying your debt to the family who sacrificed their own opportunities so you could have yours. In the end, wha
Anchee Min is one of my favorite authors and I've read everything she has written. The Cooked Seed does not disappoints. It begins with her childhood and young adulthood growing up in China during the violent trauma of the Cultural Revolution to her sole voyage to American.
She teaches herself English by watching Sesame Street, keeps herself afloat working five jobs at once, lives in unheated rooms, suffers rape, collapses from exhaustion, marries poorly and divorces.But she also gives birth to h
Anchee Min is honest. And her honesty is what makes this book special. This personal narrative picks up in Chicago, after she has essentially escaped Communist China (read Red Azalea to learn her experience growing up in Mao's world), and it is a mostly chronological story of her experience as an immigrant, desperate to make a new home in America. At times funny, tender, depressing and heartbreaking, Anchee pulls no punches. She tells the whole story, almost to a point that made me uncomfortable ...more
Anchee Min shares her personal stories of immigrating to America with honest, simple prose. You can feel her vulnerability being here with barely any money, no friends, and little English. Yet her quiet strength and determination to make it in America shines through in her writing. Her resourcefulness and resilience in getting through the many difficult challenges she faced is inspiring and makes one appreciate what many of us take for granted--our basic freedom. Though having read her first me
From BBC Radio 4:
Anchee Min's account of making a new life in America after emigrating from China.
I've read Anchee Min's previous works and enjoyed them all. This one however fell short, way short. As others have said, the first chapters are fairly compelling, but as the story moves on, it becomes disjointed, and just does not ring true. I realize this is a memoir, but the language issue really confounded me. The discussions she had with her new college roommate the first week of her arrival to America regarding things like Reagan and politics, I had a hard time buying into those discussions ...more
May 20, 2013 Marcy rated it 4 of 5 stars
This is a continuation of Red Azalea. "The Cooked Seed," meaning Anchee, who had to leave China because she was known as Madame Mao's "trash" for having been a lead in one of Madame Mao's operas. When the Cultural Revolution came to a grinding halt, and Madame Mao was imprisoned, Anchee found herself on a plane to America to start her life over again in freedom.

As many immigrants have discovered, America is the land of the free, but it is not paved with gold. Anchee had to work long and hard to
Olga Hebert
This memoir is an account of Anchee Min's life in the United States where she came from China on a student visa. To me, it read more like random memories, kind of like late night ramblings. The time line seemed all over the place. I have to admire her determination and her work ethic, but could only shake my head at the number of times she was duped and taken advantage of. So much of the life she describes seemed so bleak, yet she held on to her American dream. There was little in the book to ex ...more
Anchee Min says she didn't know a word of English when she arrived in the US but (p. 39) she told the immigration officer at O'Hare, "Do you mean I can go to Chicago? Is that what you just said?" Later she asks her roommate what "anyway" means and tells people "Sorry, me no English." Someone who does not know the meaning of "anyway" would say something like "I go Chicago?" So, when she wrote of her 6 year old daughter on a ladder helping to fix a ceiling or hauling drywall, I didn't take it lite ...more
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book, narrated by Angela Lin. In it, author Anchee Min describes the unimaginable tribulations she went through after managing to fulfill her dream of coming to America. In the process, we are made aware of the serious flaws as well as the marvelous strengths of this country.
In Chinese slang a cooked seed is someone who has no future. When Anchee Min was selected from a labor camp to act in Madame Mao Tse Tung's proletarian films, she escaped her doom. Later, she made her way to America, speaking no English, with no funds, against all odds. Her early years as a student were the stuff of a Charles Dickens novel. Catastrophe was always lurking. Deportation was the great fear. One of my favorite parts of the book was when the author joined a Maoist campus group and tri ...more
In 1994, Anchee Min made her literary debut with a memoir of growing up in China during the violent trauma of the Cultural Revolution. Red Azalea became an international bestseller and propelled her career as a successful, critically acclaimed author. Twenty years later, Min returns to the story of her own life to give us the next chapter, an immigrant story that takes her from the shocking deprivations of her homeland to the sudden bounty of the promised land of America, without language, money ...more
A life that tells many lives, yet really is only her own, Anchee Min’s The Cooked Seed transforms conceptions into perceptions and actionable insights. Not a moment is lost in her striving for the good she believes must be available to her. Not a distraction gets in her way.

The painstaking diligence of striving to understand every word of a new language as she teaches it to herself, is a high-tension wire of self-responsibility among people who do not realise what is at stake. As she strains to
I received a copy of this book as part of Goodreads giveaway. Anchee Min doesn't spend an inordinate amount of time describing the earliest part of her life - but enough to show how little life was valued and how the government oppressed the people in the service of the Party. It is simply amazing that she survived the poverty and extremes of the labor camp.

As she emigrated to the US at age 27, life didn't get easier - she didn't speak the language, was unskilled and was poor. Despite being a na
In her latest memoir, Anchee Min provides a very personal and candid account of her struggles and triumphs as she accustomed herself to living in a foreign land, as well as the early development of her writing career and later her marriage to author, Lloyd Lofthouse. As readers, we often romanticize the life of a writer and embellish it with a bit of glamor and ease. This was certainly not the case for Anchee Min. Although she left behind the physical pain associated with the Labor Camps of Chin ...more
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Anchee Min was born in Shanghai in 1957. At seventeen she was sent to a labor collective, where a talent scout for Madame Mao's Shanghai Film Studio recruited her to work as a movie actress. She moved to the United States in 1984. Her first memoir, Red Azalea, was an international bestseller, published in twenty countries. She has since published six novels, including Pearl of China and the forthc ...more
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“day, I was sent home with a notice from my kindergarten. The inspector from the public health bureau was concerned about the spread of my infection. My parents were ordered to “take action,” or the government would do it for them. My mother decided not to respond. A blue tricycle with red stars painted on each side came for me on a Monday afternoon. I was taken to a hospital where a surgeon removed my infected pimples. The surgery left an inch-long scar on the left side of my forehead. My mother was horrified when she opened the bandages. She protested that she hadn’t given consent for the surgery. “For heaven’s sake, you have ruined my daughter’s appearance!” Mother was told that a girl’s looks carried no meaning in a proletarian society. “You ought to be grateful that the surgery cost you nothing, thanks to the Communist Party and the socialist system!” 0 likes
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