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Wild Ginger

3.66  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,631 Ratings  ·  126 Reviews
The beautiful, iron-willed Wild Ginger is only in elementary school when we first meet her, but already she has been singled out by the Red Guards for her "foreign-colored eyes." Her classmate Maple is also a target of persecution. It is through the quieter, more skeptical Maple, a less than ardent Maoist whose father is languishing in prison for a minor crime, that we see ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published April 8th 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2001)
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This book makes you think about the millions of young people who had their lives taken away from them. To be hungry and impoverished is horrible enough, but to have your youth, energy and love stolen is another. To grow up in the Cultural Revolution is to have lost all of everything.

Some of the personal narratives of this period, "Wild Swan" comes to mind, tell of the deprivations and the humiliation, the power of the gang, but omit the experience of coming of age.

Maybe this is all too personal
Jun 12, 2007 Brooke rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Yes
Set in Maoist China during the Cultural Revolution, Anchee Min's "Wild Ginger" begins with two young outcast girls who find friendship as a means of survival. They live in a hostile environment where anything different is considered "anti-Mao" and can be grounds for death. Despite their intense bond, as the novel progresses their friendship is torn apart as Wild Ginger pursues militant Maoism and Maple follows her heart to love. This book is a fascinating look at how Mao's reign affected every ...more
Willem van den Oever
Dec 20, 2011 Willem van den Oever rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china, in-dutch
After the Cultural Revolution, Maple’s life in basic school becomes a hell. Her father has been sent away to a labor camp and the girl gets beaten daily by a classmate, Hot Pepper, who is the leader of the Red Guard at her school. Maple and her family are, according to the Guard, anti-Maoists and it's Hot Pepper’s job to beat the impure and bourgeois thoughts out of Maple’s head. That is, until Wild Ginger arrives at the school; a girl equally unaccepted by the Party. Having nothing to lose, the ...more
Stephen Gallup
Every so often I have to read something about the Cultural Revolution. This is largely an effort to understand my wife's background, since her early life was defined by that disgraceful patch of history. I'd previously read Anchee Min's Katherine , which is set in China after the doors opened but which pretty clearly betrayed the author's loathing for certain continuing aspects of Chinese culture. This one more closely resembles Ying Chang Compestine's autobiographical Revolution Is Not a Dinn ...more
Aug 02, 2013 Nicolette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A long-time fan of Anchee Min and her keen insight on the Cultural Revolution, this novel rocketed to the top of my favorites quite quickly - I could not put it down and resigned to doing things one-handed. She manages to pack a punch in less words: Her descriptions of the oppressive atmosphere, the irony of the fractured solidarity of the Mao "supporters," and how swept up in fear the adolescents are, is palpable and able to be touched. It hurts to read about. Wild Ginger is portrayed in the be ...more
Sep 07, 2007 Rachal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is similar to her other book, Kathrine, except it really goes more in depth into the world an psyche of what it was like to be a child/teenager during the cultural revolution. It was an amazing look at how a leader can create a following by influencing the children with rewards on one hand and severe punishment on the other. It was a great look at how and why leaders/dictators are able to gain and hold power over a large mass of people, even when those same people that supported them i ...more
Jun 02, 2010 Courtney rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
This book was a good, quick read about a teenage girl growing up during Chairman Mao's reign in China. Books like these can be hard to read because some parts of history just aren't fair. It provided a look into the Maoist years in China in the 60's and 70's, which I though was interesting because I don't know much about them. While reading this book, I came across an article about how Mao had tunnels dug throughout China in case of attack - creating an underground city beneath Beijing. There we ...more
I'll start by saying that this book appealed to me on a historical level, and that's probably the main reason I wanted to read it. Also, my reading had gone too wonderbread land, and I was ready for some intercultural reads. That coupled with my love for China - boom. I bought this book on a whim, went home, and didn't put it down until I finished. It was sweeping and chaotic and chock full of symbolism. I'm probably labeled low brow for my appreciation for the obviously symbolic, but I love tha ...more
Mar 29, 2009 Larry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a sucker for books about China and this one was a good read. The life of Ginger and her cohorts in the Cultural Revolution is fascinating and the story well told. It amazes me what people go through in this period. The book is also an interesting coming of age story. I think there are better Anchee Min books but this one is worth reading.
Melissa Cabbage
May 20, 2016 Melissa Cabbage rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: special-reviews
Every now and then, I find a book that is so raw and outrageous I can never decide how I feel towards it. I hated the characters in this book, and I hated the romance in it. It was disgusting. I hated every quotation from Mao Zedong inside and I had to skip over all of it because I was afraid of agreeing with him. It wasn't so much as what he said that was wrong, but more of the way he chose to execute it. But I didn't want any similarities with him, I didn't even want to agree that he also did ...more
May 27, 2015 Zipporiah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was surprisingly good. Like, I mean really good. It had been on my list for a while because I was hesitant about reading something about the cultural revolution without really knowing what that was, but once I finished a history class on China I felt like I was more than ready to understand the main points of the novel. With that being said, I would at least brush up on communism in China so you're not completely lost while reading.

The first few pages where Min was describing Maple and
This was so messed up! Honestly, a generation lost, no thanks to Mao and his Army. Ugh! His 'philosophies' and 'army' (aka bullies) leave a distaste in my mouth! He's not so much of a leader than a dictator who crams his ideas down people's throats and has everyone waste their days doing nothing but propaganda stuff and starve.

The author was just that good at stirring up my fury against the early days of communist China...or maybe I am not a fan of communist China to begin with....anyways back
Rachelle Dambrose
Jun 19, 2015 Rachelle Dambrose rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Told by Maple, a teen growing up in China's Cultural Revolution under Mao, "Wild Ginger" has incredible insight on life under strict communist control. Although the aspects of the culture were intriguing, the novel itself seemed to move towards a teen drama. Wild Ginger doesn't want to accept the fact that she is sexually attracted to Evergreen because of her dedication to Mao purity teachings, even though Evergreen loves her desperately. Her best friend Maple ends up with the person she is deny ...more
Maple comes of age in the midst of Mao's red China. She is lonely and constantly harrassed by a group of girls at her elementary school who enjoy beating on her and use the excuse that she is an anti-Maoist in order to get away with it. Then, Wild Ginger, a new girl, begins attending school with them - and suddenly Maple has a new friend and a staunch ally. Wild Ginger is exotic looking because she is part French, but she wants more than anything else to show everyone what a good Maoist she is. ...more
Oct 16, 2015 Kavita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of Wild Ginger, who rose from being an untrustworthy family’s daughter to a Maoist heroine. The action takes place in Maoist China and the main characters are young children. The story of how they grow up and interact with each other is told from the viewpoint of Wild Ginger’s friend, Maple, who quickly gets entangled in Wild Ginger’s fanaticism as a Maoist. It is interesting to see through the story how Maoism affected everything including the personal lives of the people, and ...more
Aug 28, 2010 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This was not what I expected especially from the cover picture of a woman in a sensuous pose. Wild Ginger is the new girl at school and she and Maple quickly become defenders of each other and lifelong friends. But it is more than that for Maple--is she in love with Wild Ginger or just obsessed by the time they are young women. WG's father was French so she & her mother are scorned and punished as not true communnists during the cultural revolution. WG catches some thieves and becomes a hero ...more
A sad and heart-rending account of three youths during the cultural revolution. Wild Ginger and Maple are picked on by Hot Pepper because they are reactionaries and revolutionaries. They become fast friends and Wild Ginger works to become the champion of the Maoist quotation contest. This is the story of a love triangle involving Evergreen the other quotation contest winner and the love that Maple has for both Wild Ginger and Evergreen. Also Evergreen and Wild Ginger's struggle to fight the bour ...more
May 12, 2013 Dani rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another Anchee Min novel that I couldn't put down! If you liked Red Azalea, you will probably like this book. Essentially, it is the coming of age story of three teenagers living in the brutal era of Maoist China: the three youngsters battle between friendship, love, betrayal, and ultimately, their political loyality.

Overall, the story itself is interesting but bittersweet - although more bitter and sad than sweet. I found that the choppy sentences and the awkwardly structured dialogue made the
A story set to the backdrop of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. A quick read (one evening) that conveyed the feelings of fear and dread for anyone who didn't buy into the teachings/requirements of the time (along with the impossibility of escape). Beyond that, the characters lack realistic definition and the events take on an exaggerated theatrical feel. For all I know, this is a true story down to the last detail, but it doesn't feel real.
Jul 07, 2014 Adéla rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Radši bych rozkousala kořen zázvoru, než se k té knize ještě někdy přiblížila. Je to hrozné. Kniha se skládá v podstatě ze dvou témat - jedno jsou maoistické kecy a druhé život a romantická linie. Člověk neví, co je horší, kecy jsou nudné, ale nevystihují hrůzy té doby, milostná linie je děsná a nedůvěryhodná. Javor je dementní, Věčně zelený strom je dementnější a Divoký zázvor je úplně nejdementnější. Nudnější blbost jsem už dlouho nečetla.
Jul 05, 2011 Jo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book to try and learn more about China during the time of the Cultural Revolution. I learned a lot. I feel very sorry for these families who were manipulated by the government through no fault of their own. Hunger is a good way to control masses of people and these people were not only kept hungry for the food needed to nourish their bodies they were starved by ideological control and their inability to think for themselves or to reflect and express their own thoughts. Idealism and l ...more
Jul 28, 2008 Ray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even better than a friend recommending a book is when a friend gives you a book. So thanks again Carrie! Every book you have sent has been a winner...and "Wild Ginger" was no exception.

This was a short novel. And it was plotted and paced like a short story, and at just 200 pages it went by fast. Although this work was steeped in details of a specific and unique period in time--China's Cultural Revolution--it managed to read quite naturally.

It's the story of two girls in love (more or less--maybe
This was intense. About two girls growing up in Maoist China. They are labled as outsiders by the party. One of them is desperate to become recognized as a true Maoist. She succeeds, and what follows is absolutely nuts. I read this book completely in one sitting (luckily my children decided to take a marathon nap that day) because it was just so intense. I can't say I was really enjoying it though, but I just couldn't put it down. But then the whole time I was kind of wishing that I had never pi ...more
Read for the 2015 Reading Challenge - a book by an author with my initials. Already branching out beyond my normal reading tastes!

I enjoyed it... I know very little about the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and this book has piqued my interest to learn more.

Dawn Dao
This was one of the most well written books i've ever read. Min really makes you feel all of Wild Ginger's struggles throughout the revolution. You really do get emotionally attatched. I would really recommend this book to young adults.
Sep 20, 2013 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting book, set in China during the period of fanatical devotion to Mao and the tenets of this Maoist revolution. It was a terrifying and unproductive period in 20th century Chinese history in which many were tortured and killed and others saw their lives virtually destroyed. The two different women who are the leading characters in this story were compelling, but somehow for me neither ever became real 3-dimensional people. The narrator and friend to Wild Ginger was better ...more
Jan 22, 2016 Lynne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic novel about China's cultural revolution. The author is excellent at "showing" through the way she writes scenes. Although the main characters are teenagers, this book engaged my interest throughout. While the ending seemed a little rushed and a little unbelievable, this is a minor "nit" in an overall excellent book.
Alan Wu
Apr 08, 2016 Alan Wu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A compelling book about the struggles of growing up during the cultural revolution. Three young children are stripped from their childhood while worshiping Mao. Overall, it is a very heartbreaking story.
Feb 21, 2015 Elena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I take the wounds as my medals.

Such a diverse and eye opening book. I felt like I was reading and alter ego of Tiger Lily and it really makes me tear up.
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2016 Reading Chal...: Wild Ginger - Anchee Min 2 17 Jan 09, 2015 04:40PM  
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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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