San Francisco Public Library

Author Anchee Min Reading at San Francisco Public Library

In honor of the Bay Area-wide Shanghai Celebration, bestselling author Anchee Min will be appearing at San Francisco Public Libraries in April to discuss her new book, Pearl of China, based on the life of Pearl S. Buck.

Min will be appearing at the Main Library, 100 Larkin St., on Tuesday, April 6 at 6:30 p.m. in the Koret Auditorium. She will also be appearing at the Chinatown Branch Library, 1135 Powell St., on Saturday, April 10 at 2:30 p.m. Books will be for sale at both events by Book Bay.

Pearl of China begins in the small southern town of Chin-kiang, in the last days of the 19th Century, when two young girls bump heads and become thick as thieves. Willow is the only child of a destitute family, Pearl the headstrong daughter of zealous Christian missionaries. She will ultimately become the internationally renowned author Pearl S. Buck, but for now she is just a girl embarrassed by her blond hair and enchanted by her new Chinese friend. The two embark on a friendship that will sustain both of them through one of the most tumultuous periods in Chinese history.

Anchee Min was born in Shanghai and lived in China for 27 years. In 1971, while still a middle school student, she was ordered to denounce Pearl Buck as an American imperialist. Here is Anchee Min’s recollection:

“I followed the order and never doubted whether or not Madam Mao was being truthful. I was brainwashed at that time, although I did remember having difficulty composing the criticisms. I wished that I had been given a chance to read The Good Earth. We were told that the book was so “toxic” that it was dangerous to even translate it. I was told to copy lines from the newspapers: ‘Pearl Buck insulted Chinese peasants therefore China.’ ‘She hates us therefore is our enemy.’ I was proud to be able to defend my country and people.

Pearl Buck’s name didn’t cross my path again until I immigrated to America. It was 1996 and I was giving a reading at a Chicago bookstore for my memoir, Red Azalea. Afterward, a lady came to me and asked if I knew Pearl Buck. Before I could reply, she said—very emotionally and to my surprise—that Pearl Buck had taught her to love the Chinese people. She placed a paperback in my hands and said that it was a gift. It was The Good Earth.

I finished reading The Good Earth on the airplane from Chicago to Los Angeles. I broke down and sobbed. I couldn’t stop myself because I remembered how I had denounced the author. I remembered how Madam Mao had convinced the entire nation to hate Pearl Buck. How wrong we were! I had never encountered any author, including the most respected Chinese authors, who wrote about our peasants with such admiration, affection, and humanity.

It was at that very moment that Pearl of China was conceived.

All programs at the Library are free. For more information, please call (415) 557-4277.

For more information on the Shanghai Celebration, presented throughout 2010 and its associated exhibitions, films, performances, lectures, and other events, please visit The cornerstone of the Celebration is the Asian Art Museum's presentation of Shanghai, a major exhibition examining the visual culture of one of China's most cosmopolitan cities, scheduled for February 12–September 5, 2010.