Katherine (1995) At first it seems odd that Anchee Min, late of Mao's labor collectives, would-be Chinese film star, and recently famous in the West for her… Fiction Riverhead
Book Review

Katherine (1995)

EW's GRADE
A-

Details Writer: Anchee Min; Genre: Fiction; Publisher: Riverhead

At first it seems odd that Anchee Min, late of Mao's labor collectives, would-be Chinese film star, and recently famous in the West for her powerful autobiography (Red Azalea), would choose for her maiden fiction Katherine, the story of an American English teacher in China. After all, the many memoirs written by ex-English teachers of their Far Eastern experiences have become practically formulaic: Alien + Asia = Illumination. The difference here is in the variables. The story is told not from the teacher's perspective but from her students', and it is not the former who is released by the experience, but the latter — in particular one student, the narrator of the book, a young woman freed by her English class from the emotional and physical desert of a labor collective. This is an English-teacher-in-Asia novel as seen through the looking glass, and it's a fascinating view. A-

Originally posted May 19, 1995 Published in issue #275 May 19, 1995 Order article reprints