the cooked seed book coverReviewed by Sarah McCubbin

Anchee Min escaped a childhood of desperate poverty and communist oppression when she immigrated to the United States on an education visa to study in a university. In her memoir, The Cooked Seed, she recounts the daily hardships of life in China during the Cultural Revolution.

Her family lived in dilapidated housing in close quarters with others. Sometimes they had food but often they went without. Despite her parents’ education, they were only able to obtain limited employment under the Mao regime. Her only hope was escape to the land of opportunity.

As Anchee arrived in the U.S., she found herself overwhelmed with the language barrier. Determined to stay and succeed, she worked day and night. But even then, she realized that her definition of success was quite different from the typical American. As she recounts the early years of living in Chicago, she recounts her observations and frequently contrasts them with life in China. So overwhelmed with the blessing of freedom, she is content despite constant hardship as she works to build a better life. As I read, I found myself greatly admiring her perseverance and stamina. Starting from nothing is difficult, but doing so with no support system is nearly impossible. Yet, Anchee’s story proves that with hard work, even unlikely dreams are possible.

One of the things I found most interesting was her observation on America’s entitled poor. As an apartment building owner in a low rent area, she rubbed shoulders with a lot of these folks and her outsider perspective offers unbiased truths that frequently get lost in political conversations.

Interestingly, her time among the welfare crowd strongly influences how she chooses to raise her daughter. Raised as an American, Anchee’s little girl consistently feels the pressure of her mother’s perspective. Lauryann wants what every other child around her has, but her mother often resists giving into those luxuries and instead pushes her daughter to work hard, learn helpful skills and forgo expensive entertainment. It creates power struggles between mother and daughter that will resonate with many parents. Anchee’s desire to make a better life for her daughter is often met by her child’s immaturity and inexperience. The lessons she learns in parenting, interacting with people and valuing herself are shared with humility making this book one that is commendable to a wide reading audience.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Bloomsbury USA. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.