Sunday, May 9, 2010


Things have been contentious at work. Lack of leadership and lack of communication are taking their toll on our little library. People are getting closer to their tenure deadlines, the stakes are getting higher and the sense of community we once had is disintegrating. Thankfully summer is coming! My trip is just 20 days away!

I was listening to NPR radio one day and they were interviewing Anchee Min about her latest book “Pearl of China” which is a novel about Pearl Buck. She said that she wanted to give the Chinese perspective of Pearl Buck. Min has her own story to tell, as a teenager she denounced Buck as anti-China without having ever read her books. It was only later in the United States, when she could read it English that she realized how misinformed and misguided she had been. I went out of my way to borrow this book from the library. The novel is a tribute to Pearl Buck but through the eyes of a lifelong friend. Perhaps this is why the dates are a bit murky and the historical events aren’t flushed out more. I don’t know a lot about this time in China’s history but I do know enough that I actually questioned one point. In the Author’s Note Min admitted she had indeed manipulated this part of history to suit her story. It is a novel, not an historical account so she has that right.

I enjoyed reading this book very much but at the same time feel as though it only gave me a taste of Pearl. Pearl wasn’t really given a character arc and her feelings were rarely explored. Min had created this lifelong friend for Pearl which should have enabled her to explore those feelings a little bit more. Perhaps she felt a little too reverential towards her subject to really do it justice. I have not read anything else by Min so it is hard to know if this is her style or not. I want to read “Red Azalea” sometime soon, which is her own memoir. And I'd like to read a good biography of Pearl S. Buck too, anyone have any recommendations?


  1. Diana, there's a good book I read a few years ago called The China Mystique. It examines Pearl Buck, Mayling Soong, and Anna May Wong and their public roles as "representatives" of China. While not a full-fledged biography, it's a good intro to Pearl Buck's life and how it shaped her views on China. Not sure if it would provide the deeper insight you're looking for, but you can take a peek at Google Books.

    Sorry to hear about your work situation. Sounds nasty. Hang in there! Hong Kong is right around the corner. :)

  2. Thanks, duriandave. Actually that book sounds familiar, did you mention this on your blog at any time?

    Yeah, work is crazy lately but I am very grateful to have a good job so I try not to complain too much.

    Yes, my trip is soon! :)

  3. Hi Diana,

    I'm a fan of Anchee Min and highly recommend "Red Azalea" and "Becoming Madame Mao" which is a powerful novel.

    I'm excited for you and your trip to Hong Kong which is a wonderful city. I hope you can blog your adventures from there.

    Also I hope you have the opportunity to meet ytsl of Webs of Significance as she is a wonderful spokeswoman for Hong Kong.

  4. Thanks sbk, it is always good to have personal recommendations.

    That is a great idea, to meet ytsl while I am in Hong Kong.