A Life of My Own
by Xiaolu Guo
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Pub Date 12 Sep 2023 | Archive Date 12 Sep 2023
Grove Atlantic, Grove Press
Xiaolu Guo has been lauded as a “voice . . . speaking with full freedom” (Wall Street Journal), which has made her one of the most acclaimed Chinese-born writers of her generation. She is the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author of Nine Continents and a Granta Best Young British Novelist. Her new memoir, Radical, is an exploration of a city, an electrically honest rendering of what it means to be an outsider, and the sojourn that upended her sense of self as a woman, partner, mother, and artist.
The world can seem strange and lonely when you step away from your family and everything you have built for yourself. Yet beauty may also appear. In the autumn of 2019, Guo traveled to New York to take up her position as a visiting professor for a year, leaving her child and partner behind in London. What she experienced, however, amidst excursions throughout the city and time spent on her own, was solitude and a destabilizing of self. Her encounter with American culture and people threatened her sense of identity and threw her into a crisis—of meaning, desire, obligation, and selfhood.
Radicals, or bushous, are the building blocks of Chinese characters; they are the “root” from which all words get their meaning. In this feminist lexicon, as she threads together her search for creative and personal freedom, Guo illuminates the integral role language plays in forming our sense of self.
Radical is an individual and etymological journey, and an ardent love letter. It is an expression of one artist’s fascination with Western culture and her nostalgia for Eastern landscapes, and an attempt to describe the space in between.