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Book Club Wed Mar 03 2010

Red Azalea Discussion Questions

Below are the questions we'll use to discuss Red Azalea, Anchee Min's memoir of her life in Communist China. I'm looking forward to hearing everyone's thoughts, especially from those of you who are familiar with this particular period and culture. Join us on Monday, March 8, at 7:30pm when we'll discuss the book together at the Book Cellar at 4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave. New members are always welcome to take part in the discussion.

  • How does Min present her childhood and herself as a child? Why does she choose to denounce her teacher Autumn Leaves? Did that incident have any effect on the way she perceived the workings of the Party?
  • How does what happened to Little Green illustrate attitudes about women in Communist China? What affect did these events have on Min? How did they shape her relationships from that point forward?
  • What role does sexuality play in the story? How does Min present her own sexuality? How do her relationships with Yan and with the Supervisor shape the reader's view of her sexuality? Why does she help Yan build a relationship with Leopard, knowing her own feelings for Yan?
  • What ideas about the Party was Min trying to convey to her American audience?
  • Why does Min's family depend on her so much? How can she best help them and how does she feel about doing that?
  • What significance does playing Red Azalea have for Min? Given the Supervisor's explanation of who Red Azalea is, does this seem like a good fit for Min? How does the story of Red Azalea appear in contrast with what happens to Madam Mao after the Chairman's death? What effect do these events have on the way Min perceives the Party?
  • After Min is demoted part of the "Red Azalea" production team, Min's mother chastises her for not "learning" and preventing the direction her life took. Min tells her mother "I don't want to inherit your life. It is a terrible, terrible and terrible life...Your philosophy does not work for me. My mother refused to give up. She said she didn't believe that evilness should rule. I said, It's ruling. She said, It's impossible. I said, I mop floors, don't you see? She said, What did you do wrong? I said, I wish I knew the answer. My mother started her repetition: Then that should have happened to you. I said, It's happening to me. She said she would like to have a talk with my instructor. I laughed" (258) How do Min's philosophies differ from her mother's? Does this difference represent a generational difference or are Min's ideas unique to her?
  • Shortly thereafter, Min writes "I looked at my mother and suddenly found that I was much like her. I had inherited her stubbornness. I inherited her passion. That I must live for myself was in my veins. Even if it were only a dream, so be it" (285). What brought about this change in her opinion of her mother? How does this reflect on Min's perception of herself?
  • Why does Min decide to leave China at the end of the book? Did you feel that that was the logical conclusion to the story she told?
  • Were you able to sympathize with Min as a character or as an author? What sort of tone does her memoir have?

 
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