It was not in my nature to be an assertive person. I was used to looking to others for guidance, for influence, sometimes for the most basic cues of life. And yet writing stories is one of the most assertive things a person can do. Fiction is an act of willfulness, a deliberate effort to reconceive, to rearrange, to reconstitute nothing short of reality itself…
Being a writer means taking the leap from listening to saying, ‘Listen to me.’ This was where I faltered. I preferred to listen rather than speak, to see instead of be seen. I was afraid of listening to myself, and of looking at my life.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author has said that she feels more comfortable observing other people than being a participant on the stage of life. But in this week’s New Yorker, Lahiri opens up and tells the story of how she became a writer. Hers is a story of stealth audacity and of finding a home for herself in solitude the of her desk.
~Nancy Rosenbaum, producer
- 165 Plays
Repossessing Virtue: Anchee Min on Repairing the American Individual
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Rob McGinley Myers, Associate Producer
The novelist and memoirist Anchee Min grew up in Mao’s China, during the Cultural Revolution. In our program "Surviving the Religion of Mao," she described that period, beginning in 1966, when Chinese people were forced into peasant labor camps and told to sacrifice everything they loved for the greater good of the country.
I was taught to write, “I love you, Chairman Mao” before I was taught to write my own name. I never thought I belonged to myself. It was never “I love you, Papa” not “I love you, Mama.” It’s always “I love you, Communist Party of China,” “I love you, Chairman Mao.”
We were taught if you can sacrifice your loved ones, if you can denounce your parents, if you can denounce your favorite teacher, you are capable of greater love for the humanity.
Anchee Min managed to come to the United States in the 1980s, taught herself English, and became a bestselling author in part by writing about the horrors of her childhood. So I was particularly interested in her thoughts about our current economic downturn. Having grown up in a culture of total sacrifice, and then come to a country that so celebrates the pursuit of happiness, what perspective does she bring to this crisis? She has some hard and challenging answers.