Becoming Madame Mao is Chinese American author Anchee Min's third book; it is a fictionalized biography of Jiang Qing (Min spells it Jiang Ching), Mao Zedong's wife of 38 years and member of the notorious Gang of Four. Based on extensive research in China, Min - who as a child was a Little Red Guard and idolized Jiang Qing - has given flesh to the woman who is reviled in China as a "white-boned demon".

Min's portrayal paints a picture of a woman abandoned by her family at a young age, and who was desperate for love and acceptance. She was obsessed with Mao, who, whatever else you may think of him, must have been a charismatic man, and in the end killed for his approval. It is a lyrical and highly readable account of the life of this complex woman who was married four times, worked as an opera actress, and became a pivotal figure in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Min's book shifts between first-person and third-person passages, juxtaposing recorded history with intimate if speculative interactions between Jiang Qing and Mao, but it all rings true, giving a very plausible account of how this woman could have risen so high and fallen so low. Highly recommended.

There's an interview with Anchee, in which she talks about Jiang Qing and this book, at

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