Red Azalea is a memoir of Chinese American writer, Anchee Min, that was written from 1984 to 1992, her first eight years in the United States. The memoir depicts Min's personal experiences throughout her lifetime and her struggles during the Cultural Revolution in China. The Cultural Revolution was a sociopolitical movement in China that occurred from 1966 to 1976, led by the Chairman of the Communist Party of China, Mao Zedong. The goal of the revolution was to preserve Communism in China by destroying all capitalist components of Chinese society, and to enforce Mao Zedong's ideology throughout China.
Where its structure is concerned, Red Azalea is separated into three parts:
In part one, Min begins the memoir by telling the story of living under the rule of Mao Zedong during her childhood Shanghai in the 1960s. Anchee Min sincerely believes in the principles of Mao's communism, and is an exemplary student, until she must testify against her favorite teacher, who is on trial for espionage.
In part two, Min tells the story of her teenage years, and further struggle with the Communist system in China. She lives on a farm with other teenagers, and realizes she has little chance of escaping a life of manual labor, and her faith in Maoism begins to crumble.
In part three, Min's disillusion with Mao's system becomes prominent after her work experiences fail. With Mao Zedong's death in 1976, Min comes to the United States in search of a better life.
The title refers to the Azalea flower, a flowering shrub that blooms in shades from pale yellow to crimson red. The color red is a symbol of communism, representing blood of the workers who died in the struggle against capitalism. Red Azalea was well-received by critics. The memoir won the Carl Sandburg Literary Award in 1993 and was named a New York Times Notable Book in 1994.
Other works by Anchee Min: Becoming Madame Mao, Empress Orchid, Katherine, and Wild Ginger