Houghton Mifflin, Apr 2002, 23.00, 217 pp.
Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s and early 1970s is a dangerous place as Chairman Mao and his devoted horde demand self-sacrifice for the good of the cause. Quiet and innocent Maple loses her father to the labor camps. Because the crimes of the parents are bestowed upon the children, his minor infraction leaves Maple open to “umbrella” beatings by Maoist mouth Hot Pepper and her gang. No one dare intercede for fear of anti-Maoist branding, the worst state crime.
New student half-breed WILD GINGER and Maple become friends as expected of two outcasts. Their friendship struggles to survive the male test when Red Guard Evergreen falls for Wild Ginger while Maple desires him. As WILD GINGER becomes a national hero for exposing “criminals” like her mother and fishy black marketers, Maple and Evergreen become engaged. However, devoted Maoist WILD GINGER denounces him as a traitor placing Evergreen and Maple in danger from the overzealous Maoists.
WILD GINGER is a tremendous psychological dramatization of the excesses of the Chinese Cultural Revolution by looking inside the minds to the fears of the people. The audience feels the motives and psychological deprivation of the key players and some of the secondary characters as everyone struggles to survive in a world accentuating Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Need. One derogatory comment means the Maoist equivalent of the guillotine. Anchee Min is one of the best historical fiction writers on the market today as her accounts of China in the middle of the last century is incredibly insightful but entertainingly well-written.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner