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5.0 out of 5 stars Zebra as a Character in Katherine.
After a period of a month I finished reading Katherine for an English class at Hofstra University. Katherine, a novel by Anchee Min, seemed interesting but I never heard of her before. The novel turned out to be an extremley powerful and inspirational experience. Katherine was narrated by a chinese woman named Zebra.Zebra's character was very dark and disturbed in the...
Published on April 11 2001 by Samuel Dick

versus
1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment after Red Azalea
Red Azalea is one of my favourite novels, and so I read Katherine with great anticipation. I was very disappointed--the story was weak, and the writing not as sharp as what I expected after the freshness of Red Azalea. I think it is common for writers to have difficulty with their "sophomore" book though, especially after such a smashing debut, as Min had with...
Published on Feb. 17 2003 by artemis


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4.0 out of 5 stars Don't Judge a Book by its Cover, April 27 2001
This review is from: Katherine (Paperback)
Our English professor at Hofstra University asigned the class to read the novel Katherine by Anchee Min. The title was to simple and it did not appeal to us, but after several reading assignments, we fell in love with the characters.The novel takes place in Shanghai,China. Min's novel deals with the concepts of pain, betrayal and new beginings. It depicts the lives of chinese men and women during the post-cultural revolution.Through vivid and descriptive images a reader can easily become lost in the street of China. We come to understand the hardships of women in China through the eyes of Zebra Wong. Gender oppression, arrranged marriages,abortion and adoption are examples of the hardships which are protayed throughout the novel. Katherine, an American english teacher, goes to China to record her findings on chinese women and to teach an English class. She has a great impact on her students especially Zebra. Katherine imposes her veiw on how the chinese government has brainwashed their people to believe that their opions do not matter.Katherine develops personal relationships with her students that some might veiw as inappropriate. Katherine has a significant impact on Zebra, her way of thinking has made a complete 360 degree turn.During this time, oppossal of government lead to being sent to labor camps and even death. Zebra is constantly out in the situation of chosing the government or Katherine friendship. This book hit home with a lot of current matters that we see on a day to day base. It help people realize that human being are the same all accross the globe. We highly recommend this book for histrorical fact and for pure enjoyment. At first look this book may not seem interesting but we guarantee you pick up the book and you will not let it downuntil you are done.
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4.0 out of 5 stars How Students can relate to this book, April 13 2001
By 
Lauren, Tom, Lisa, Marielle (Long Island, Hofstra University, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Katherine (Paperback)
Being college students and having read Anchee Min's Katherine was a great experience because we all related to the novel. The novel takes place in Shangai China after the Mao-revolution. Katherine, an American teacher comes to China to research its communist government for a book she hopes to write in the near future. She uses the time she spends in China to open up the narrow minds of her Chinese students. Katherine develops a close relationship with one of her students, Zebra Wong. Once she enlightens Zebra with her "free spirit," Zebra undergoes a series of changes, and develops a strong infatuation with Katherine. We love the way the book approaches the relationship between Katherine and Zebra because it is not 100 percent pure. Everyone can relate to the fact that sometimes friendships and relationships have their ups and downs. However, it all depends on how we deal with the situation. In this novel, Zebra and Katherine show us how through betrayals and lies, a true friendship can overcome its hardship and two people show how they really need and depend on one another. The prose is easy for college students to understand and to relate to. It made it easy to follow the characters lives as well as learn about historical facts in China. Students today can most definitely relate to the social relationships and love triangles in this novel. They can also relate to feelings at times of low self-esteem and embarrassment.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Zebra as a Character in Katherine., April 11 2001
This review is from: Katherine (Paperback)
After a period of a month I finished reading Katherine for an English class at Hofstra University. Katherine, a novel by Anchee Min, seemed interesting but I never heard of her before. The novel turned out to be an extremley powerful and inspirational experience. Katherine was narrated by a chinese woman named Zebra.Zebra's character was very dark and disturbed in the beggining of the novel. Zebra had suffered from her misfortune in China her entire life. Her saga is considered very tragic until she meets Katherine and finds the hope and inspiration she needs to be happy.I appreciated Zebra's character the most because I envied her strength and honor, as a person in a desperate situation. Zebra had contact with a few other characters besides katherine. There were sexual relations and verbal companionships but all this faded as the novel came to a conclusion. I feel as if Anchee Min was trying to support the idea that one's friends might not be friends at all. Perhaps on the outside they appear to be friends but a true friend has to earn the proper respect. Friendship and respect cannot be bought and definitley not demanded.It must be seen through action and a caring set of eyes. Katherine and zebra were special because they understood each others differences and learned from one another. Even though each came from a different society, they shared the same emotions at times. Through their interactions we can see how eastern and western civilizations contradict each other, and how strangers from these worlds unite as friends. When Zebra met Katherine her search for a relationship came to a hault. Even though Katherine is not a man, the love she possess toward Zebra is irreplaceable. Certain parts of the novel, such as descriptions of natuaral settings, are written perfectly by Anchee Min. Through Zebra's thoughts the reader can understand what China is like, and how the beauty of it's nature is contradicted by seemingly corrupt politics and government. "After a while I wouldn't hear a thing. The crowd would flow past my eyes like a silent film. Then I would flow with them feeling weightless, in a washed out light".(Katherine p.6) Zebra's character and this passage represent her as being insignificant in Shanghai, China. I accept her struggle for survival and against lonliness as being sad and tragic, which makes her more powerful and inspirational to me as a reader. Anchee min intended for a close relationship between the reader and Zebra. Min's work is crafted with a skill from the heart and it's evident through out the piece.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Overall Perspective of Katherine, April 3 2001
By 
Damien, Peter, Kristine (Long Island, New York USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Katherine (Mass Market Paperback)
As students at the University of Hofstra, we read Katherine, written by Anchee Min. This novel was about an American teacher that came to China to teach English to Chinese students after the Cultural Revolution. Katherine brought her American ideology to China, where it was not accepted. This novel consisted of many themes; betrayal, friendship, romance and innocence. Lion Head represents the theme of betrayal, he has an affair with both Katherine and Zebra Wong and doesn't stay with either one of them, he just sleeps with them. This also fits under the category of Romance. Katherine and Zebra represented the theme of friendship. They relied on each other when times got rough. Little Rabbit, Katherine's adopted daughter represented innocence because she was mute and this is how the Chinese government wanted the people to be. We think Katherine is a good book to be read as college freshmen because its not a hard book to read and understand, and it is interesting. It also gives you an understanding on how life is in other places in the world. The only disappointment about the book was the ending, we though it could have been better by adding more about what happens after Zebra and Little Rabbit leave China.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Katherine" A history book and life lesson in one., April 2 2001
By 
sarah gordon (long island, new york) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Katherine (Paperback)
We feel Katherine, a novel written by Anchee Min, is a book which everyone should read. It's everything from a history to a life's lesson and from tearjerkers to a wake up call. It brings a sense of patriotism and makes one feel as if their life really isn't bad. Though Katherine took place in China in the early 80's, many of the issues in this novel still pertain to student's lives today in America. Zebra Wong, one of the main characters in this novel, is battling throughout the novel to find herself. She's trying to be something that she really isn't, while trying to make a positive impression on Katherine, her American teacher and influence. Love, is another issue in which Zebra Wong comes face to face within this novel. Zebra is trying to find her one true love and is confused as to who it should be, or if it should even be a male. She is battling to find happiness and once again, impress everyone else. Who really wants to be the one without anyone? Zebra doesn't. Today in America, many students encounter the same battles. In fact, there may be many psychologists that feel that people battle these issues their whole lives. Everyone is trying to find their one true love and often, try to be something their not. People always try to impress one another, especially in the novel, _Katherine_. Zebra tries to impress Katherine in many ways. Throughout the novel, Zebra gives Katherine earrings and helped her adopt a child Katherine always wanted. After reading this novel, a person can get a clearer view, as to who and what Mao Zedong was. You can get a feel as to why the Chinese are the way they are and all of the horrible experiences they had to encounter. This novel gives an understanding as to why the Chinese actually worshiped Mao, even though he put them through hell. This is something you can't learn in a history book. Zebra is a lesson in life and a book that really keeps you on the edge of your seat. It really gets you thinking and makes you realize that YOU aren't the only one that has certain problems. It's a wonderful book that we feel every person should read and enjoy!
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Katherine" A history book and life lesson in one., April 2 2001
By 
sarah gordon (long island, new york) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Katherine (Paperback)
We feel Katherine, a novel written by Anchee Min, is a book which everyone should read. It's everything from a history to a life's lesson and from tearjerkers to a wake up call. It brings a sense of patriotism and makes one feel as if their life really isn't bad. Though Katherine took place in China in the early 80's, many of the issues in this novel still pertain to student's lives today in America. Zebra Wong, one of the main characters in this novel, is battling throughout the novel to find herself. She's trying to be something that she really isn't, while trying to make a positive impression on Katherine, her American teacher and influence. Love, is another issue in which Zebra Wong comes face to face within this novel. Zebra is trying to find her one true love and is confused as to who it should be, or if it should even be a male. She is battling to find happiness and once again, impress everyone else. Who really wants to be the one without anyone? Zebra doesn't. Today in America, many students encounter the same battles. In fact, there may be many psychologists that feel that people battle these issues their whole lives. Everyone is trying to find their one true love and often, try to be something their not. People always try to impress one another, especially in the novel, _Katherine_. Zebra tries to impress Katherine in many ways. Throughout the novel, Zebra gives Katherine earrings and helped her adopt a child Katherine always wanted. After reading this novel, a person can get a clearer view, as to who and what Mao Zedong was. You can get a feel as to why the Chinese are the way they are and all of the horrible experiences they had to encounter. This novel gives an understanding as to why the Chinese actually worshiped Mao, even though he put them through hell. This is something you can't learn in a history book. Zebra is a lesson in life and a book that really keeps you on the edge of your seat. It really gets you thinking and makes you realize that YOU aren't the only one that has certain problems. It's a wonderful book that we feel every person should read and enjoy!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stirring and Disturbing, Jan. 4 2001
This review is from: Katherine (Paperback)
Having read Red Azalea by Anchee Min, I was eager to read more of her work. However I found that Katherine was listed as Out of Print in Australia. To my delight, I was able to track down a copy through Amazon and it was well worth the effort. I am so glad to see that Katherine is to be reprinted and made readily available once more, for Katherine is a book which one begun, can't be put down.
Anchee Min has a fascinating writing style. Her language is both raw and shocking, passionate and disturbing, and yet at times delicate and almost gentle to the touch. By the time I got to the last page I was completely absorbed and felt that Zebra and Katherine were in fact real people, and even more than that, I felt they were people that I knew. I wanted to see photos of them, just as one would look for photos in a biography. The characters are rich and evoked all kinds of emotions ... from the vile Jasmine to the cowardly Lion Head, the fascinating and sensuous Katherine to the noble and self sacrificing Zebra... all are rich characters that one comes to love or hate.
I have read many books about China during the years of the Cultural Revolution, so it was intriguing to read one that deals with the post Mao era. My closest friend is from China and as she has tried to explain Chinese thinking to me, I could see it also identified throughout this novel. The naive Katherine saw China through American eyes. While she laughed at Zebra's fears, Zebra could smell the evil in the air. The ever positive Katherine always anticipated victory. Zebra alone saw the vicious beam in the eye of the enemy.
The one thing that frustrated me with this book was the ending. I wanted more. I wanted to know what lay beyond the final words. Anchee Min did the same thing to me in Red Azalea. Both books left me in the air, and while I appreciate that this was for dramatic affect, nevertheless, I felt teased. I have to keep reminding myself that it is only a story and quell the desire to enquire further as to the fate of Zebra.
Should the author read this review, thank you Anchee Min for your wonderful books and for painting with words such rich and vibrant characters.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A teacher brings a new way of thinking to her students., Feb. 12 2000
By 
Linda Linguvic (New York City) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Katherine (Mass Market Paperback)
This little gem of a book kept me up awake until I finished every word. It is the story of the impact that an American teacher, Katherine, makes on a class of students in the 1980s, after the death of Mao and during a time of change. The teacher brings new ways of thinking to her students. And danger.
The language is simple, evocative and clear. The voice is fresh. Simple sentences opened worlds of understanding for me. The main character, Zebra, is in her late twenties. She is confused with the changes around her. She was brought up to worship communism and Chairman Mao, was sent to a labor camp as a teenager, now works in a factory and lives in an overcrowded apartment with her parents and brother. Life is harsh for her and those around her. And then the American teacher, with her western ways comes into their life.
Concepts such as travel, choice, moving from place to place are introduced. The students learn to talk about how they feel about things, which is something that Chinese people just don't do. There's a intertwining love story including obsession and deception. And all of this is under the watchful eyes of the government, who control every aspect of Chinese life and signs of individualism are looked at with suspicion.
We, Americans, walk around with our eyes closed too. We can't quite understand what we're dealing with in China. I've read articles about this. But through this simple novel of a sparse 254 pages, I began to understand.
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5.0 out of 5 stars the story of Zebra Wong, April 20 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Katherine (Mass Market Paperback)
Would you be willing to devote eight years of work in a labor camp for mere political recognition? Faced with this question, the average Jane Doe or American would answer no. However, Zebra Wong jumped at the opportunity. We can assume that Zebra is no Jane Doe neither is she American. In fact, Zebra Wong is the absolute opposite. Under influence of the Communist Party, Zebra Wong and her family sacrificed their lives to glorify their "god," Mao Zedong. Years later, Mao's plans for China had failed. The people of China asked themselves why, when they had worked so hard, were suddenly so miserable? Zebra lost her faith in Mao and decided to end her work. Unfortunately, Zebra was not permitted to leave the labor camp. Can you imagine "slaving" for eight years against your own will? For Zebra, she dreaded every moment. "My education from age seven to eighteen was spent learning to be an honest Communist." Not up till the age of twenty-nine did Zebra enroll in a special English program. At school, an American teaches English to Zebra and her Chinese classmates. Her name is Katherine. "Like an evening star, she appeared quietly in our lives, in complete harmony, and before we realized it, she was installed above our heads" is how author Anchee Min described Katherine. Her existence was overwhelming, bringing 'a story of the western world' with her. In return, Zebra and her classmates exchange their tales with Katherine. Katherine became Zebra's confidant. Through time, Zebra learned to repress her past. A friendship begins; Zebra discovers a world of acceptance despite the unexpected consequences and misfortunes.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, troubling view of Americans and Chinese, March 26 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Katherine (Mass Market Paperback)
Reading "Katherine" is a painful experience, in many ways. The American reader (especially one who is teaching English in another country) might be disturbed by the recognition of himself/herself in the title character, a "freewheeling," independent, optimistic, "typical" (?) American woman who seems painfully incapable of the subtlety necessary for life in post-Cultural Revolutionary China. Katherine dresses strangely, seeming to flaunt her physical characteristics, speaks her mind without thinking about the political and cultural situation in which she finds herself, and even has an affair with one of her students--all the while claiming that she was probably Chinese in another life.

The Chinese reader might be disturbed by what could be interpreted as Zebra's (the main Chinese character's) hatred of her own people. Indeed, Zebra's statements about her fellow Chinese often reminded me of Bo Yang's _The Ugly Chinaman_ in their overwhelming negativity. China after the Cultural Revolution is portrayed as a place where no one trusts anyone else, and where selfishness has replaced politeness and concern for the welfare of others. Zebra, however, might be forgiven for overemphasizing China's problems to Katherine, who seems to wander through China with the illusion that, as an American, she is "above" any of the customs or protocols that have evolved as a result of both the 5000 years of Chinese history and everything that has happened after 1949.

Without giving away the ending, I might say that the book reminded me of _Life and Death in Shanghai_ by Nien Chung, whose author, in some ways, seems a combination of the characteristics of Katherine and Zebra, and who also shares the fates of those characters. _Katherine_ is an absorbing book (I read it in one night, something I rarely do), but also a sad experience.
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Katherine
Katherine by Anchee Min (Mass Market Paperback - May 1 1996)
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