||Red Azalea is the story of a young woman's emotional and political education in the last years of Mao's China. Born in Shanghai in 1957 Anchee Min, as a member of the Little Red Guards, was asked to betray and publicly humiliate a beloved teacher. At seventeen she was sent to work at a labor collective, the Red Fire Farm, where her education in fear, deprivation, and hardship continued. And yet, forbidden to speak, to dress, to read, write, or love as she pleased, she found a lifeline that enabled her to survive the horrors of her daily existence. She fell in love with her company leader, and under a grubby mosquito net, always fearful of exposure by a vindictive colleague, the two women found emotional solace. Then, from a pool of twenty thousand candidates, Min became a finalist for the film version of one of Madame Mao's political operas. But as shooting of the film commenced, Chairman Mao suddenly died, taking with him an entire world, and changing forever life as Anchee Min had known it.
Red Azalea is a revelatory and disturbing impression of China. It gives an intimate and compelling portrait of China's Cultural Revolution and its toll on the lives of the young men and women caught up in its fatal coils. The story Anchee Min recounts here is exceptional for its candor, its poignancy, its courage, and for "the most stunningly beautiful prose you could hope to read" (London Times).