Chinese culture crisscrosses with Chicago in woman's story

"There was a lot of fight with myself during the writing," she said.

Could she write, for example, about the man, another Chinese immigrant to Chicago, who rented her a room and then raped her? By the rules of her native culture, she couldn't.

"Anything done to a woman, it's a woman's fault and you should stay silent," she said. "My family would be humiliated. That rape scene was very hard."

Could she write about the loneliness that in her early Chicago days repeatedly sent her to a neighborhood video store to rent the same porn movie over and over?

"I didn't have the guts to write about my relationship with that tape," she said. "But I thought: I don't have the right to own this material. Because that's part of the immigrant history. That loneliness, like acid that drizzles on you, and the hopelessness and helplessness and human desire to be touched."

Min's life is more settled now. In the hills near San Francisco, she lives with her second husband, an author and Vietnam vet she met through a dating service. He writes down in the basement. She reads up on the observation deck. Her daughter is on the other side of the bay, at Stanford University.

It's a part of the world famous for wealth, education and beauty, a place where, as Min puts it, people "talk seriously about implementing strategies," which is to say it's far from the Chicago that taxed her survival skills.

"Chicago was milk and butter, bread," she said. "Chicago is more human in a way."

At 11 a.m. Saturday at Lit Fest, we'll talk about Min's writing, her Chicago past and the future of China, which she visits routinely.

"McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken and Hollywood movies are taking over," she said. "The next generation of Chinese, there is some potential cancer there. They've become an entitled generation. That's how you rot — you become entitled."

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