The Cooked Seed traces Anchee Min’s evolution from a woman with shattered self-esteem to one with brass enough to have a child when she wanted, although her Chinese-immigrant partner didn’t, and then to divorce him and find love with an American, a Vietnam veteran. Like him, Min suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and her prose bears the marks. Her book reads like the testimony of a woman who, in coping with haunting memories she’d rather suppress, swings between remembering too much and too little. Therefore, she simply tells it as it happened, in the order it happened, all of it. See my full review of the book in Ms. Magazine’s Spring issue.
Chinese-born artist O Zhang traveled across the United States, photographing thousands of blank and neglected billboards, a trek that echoes Dorothea Lange’s own documentary expedition during the Great Depression. Zhang has taken an object that has long been a canvas—with pop art icons such as Andy Warhol designing billboards for the Sunset Strip—and made it the subject instead. In capturing the formal elegance of the bare billboard, Zhang has, in some sense, flipped the script. It’s not the printed images and text on them that matter, but the structures themselves. Read more about her work and about billboards as an American cultural signifer in my essay for The Margins, a magazine of the Asian American Writers Workshop.
My profile of Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi runs on the cover of Ms. Magazine’s Winter 2012 issue. The woman who has long personified the fight for democracy and human rights in Burma has finally decided to engage with one of the world’s most repressive regimes. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate is running for a seat in a parliament created by the military junta that put her under house arrest for almost two decades, after stealing an election from her. Read about the challenges facing her as she attempts a shift from moral icon to politician. As she told Congressman Bill Richardson in 1994, “I look upon myself as a politician, and that isn’t a dirty word, is it, Congressman?”