Katherine

Katherine

by Anchee Min
     
 

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This novel, described by the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review as "nothing short of miraculous," is the story of Zebra Wong, a Chinese girl whose pragmatic mind conflicts with her passionate heart; Lion Head, her classmate, whose penchant for romantic intrigue belies his political ambitions, and Katherine, the seductive American with the red lipstick and

Overview

This novel, described by the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review as "nothing short of miraculous," is the story of Zebra Wong, a Chinese girl whose pragmatic mind conflicts with her passionate heart; Lion Head, her classmate, whose penchant for romantic intrigue belies his political ambitions, and Katherine, the seductive American with the red lipstick and the wild laugh who teaches them English and other foreign concepts: individualism, sensuality, the Beatles. In Katherine's classroom, repression and rebellion meet head-on-and the consequences are both tragic and liberating.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Searing, uncompromising prose. -Harper's Bazaar

Joltingly honest...and arresting tale of tyranny, deprivation, culture shock, eroticism, spirituality awakening and courage. -Booklist

Superb writing...Katherine explores the complex hungers of human soul caught up in the whirlwind of epic-making events. -San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

The story changes forward with its own energy. But with Min, there is a second reward-her eloquent, passionate writing. -Detroit Free Press

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Min's first novel is less successful on a number of fronts than her outstanding memoir, Red Azalea. Narrated by a 29-year-old Chinese woman named Zebra whose family is poor and disgraced in the eyes of the Party, the story line traces the upheavals sparked by the appearance in the wake of the Cultural Revolution of a vibrant American teacher of English. When, in 1982, Katherine first arrives at the East Sea Foreign Language Institute in Shanghai, Zebra is a hardened veteran of the crushing Chinese system. Becoming Katherine's friend and prized pupil holds a dangerous allure for her: ``Katherine. We enjoyed saying it. We liked to think that her name smelled of hot blood. We liked to imagine everything that came with the name. A story of the western world.'' Katherine meets Zebra's expectations, teaching her not only English but also the finer points of the Beatles, makeup and illicit affairs. Zebra is not the only one who finds the American compelling, however. So does a fellow student, who has the unlikely name of Lion Head and who is mixed up in political games involving the head of the Institute. Despite Zebra's multiple warnings, Katherine blunders into an unseemly incident in which the demands of the state trample the desires of the individual. One of Red Azalea's most enjoyable attributes was the tension created by the presence of a charged sensuality amid the gray uniformity of Communist China. This novel also possesses sensuality, primarily through the freewheeling Katherine, but it seems forced. The characters lack the tight focus of those in Min's memoir, as well. Zebra, for instance, can be guarded and provincial in one paragraph and then reel off a philosophical jag about identity in the next. The writing, despite its lyrical moments, is also off key-particularly during the novel's rushed and unfortunate climax. Author tour. (May)
Library Journal
Min's first novel is set in China, but at its heart is a magnetic and willful young American woman named Katherine, with auburn hair, catlike eyes, and a gorgeous body-``a combination of beauty and cruelty.'' Katherine teaches English at the university in Shanghai, and among her students is Zebra, a ruined product of the Cultural Revolution. Zebra poignantly relates the devastating impact Katherine has on her students, who are enthralled by her air of freedom and her not-to-subtle sexuality. But as she goes about trying to do good, Katherine is also breathtakingly naive about the stumbling blocks her students face. As Zebra tartly tells her, ``You better sing our song since you are climbing our mountain.'' Min, the author of last year's Red Azalea (LJ 12/93), an account of her rough upbringing in China, has written a little dewdrop of a work that is lyrical, to-the-point, and occasionally marred by writing that seems annoyingly childish but perhaps should be acknowledged as echoing the voice of a young woman painfully finding her way out of a terrible historical experiment. Recommended for most collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/95.]-Barbara Hoffert, ``Library Journal''

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780425180235
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/01/2001
Edition description:
Reissue
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
740,644
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.97(h) x 0.63(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Searing, uncompromising prose. -Harper's Bazaar

Joltingly honest...and arresting tale of tyranny, deprivation, culture shock, eroticism, spirituality awakening and courage. -Booklist

Superb writing...Katherine explores the complex hungers of human soul caught up in the whirlwind of epic-making events. -San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

The story changes forward with its own energy. But with Min, there is a second reward-her eloquent, passionate writing. -Detroit Free Press

Meet the Author

Anchee Min was born in Shanghai in 1957. At seventeen, she was sent to a labor collective, where talent scouts discovered her and recruited her to work as an actress. She came to the U.S. in 1984 with the help of the actress Joan Chen. A painter, photographer, and musician, she lives in Los Angeles and Shanghai with her husband and daughter.

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