Xiao Hui Wang: MY VISUAL DIARY

     In her Foreword to the English language edition of the runaway Chinese bestseller My Visual Diary, Anchee Min calls author Xiao Hui Wang’s journey from a persecuted student during the Cultural Revolution to a renowned international artist “the story of modern China”. 

     My Visual Dairy captivated the Chinese reading public with its frank portrait of an extraordinarily beautiful, gifted and courageous woman who transformed tragedy into triumphant art and literature on the international stage. It has been through more than forty editions and sold over 500,000 copies in China, winning three prestigious literary awards and catapulting Xiao Hui to celebrity. 

     For Chinese readers, the life Xiao Hui recounts in My Visual Diary is a fairy tale, albeit a fairy tale filled with heartbreak. She and her husband Yu Lin, both training as architects, were able to leave China after the end Cultural Revolution when this was still extremely difficult to do. My Visual Diary begins as they travel together to Germany to study, placed in separate cities by the Chinese government. When Xiao Hui is forced to return to China, a prominent German actor commits suicide out of unrequited love for her. She and her husband are forced to stay in Germany as the authorities investigate the suicide. Several years later Yu Lin dies in a car crash where she is severely injured. Her own “wounded ugliness”, as she called it, propelled her into a life as an artist. From the ashes of loneliness and suffering she forged a brilliant career for herself in Germany and China. My Visual Diary records this journey from romance to heartbreak to triumph. It is an intimate account of a woman who has lived life a life of freedom, self-expression and ferocious independence. 

     China is still an insular society, and although there is a widespread and extensive Chinese diaspora, with thriving Chinese communities all over the world, those communities tend to be insular. Xiao Hui is the exception – hers is a truly cosmopolitan voice that integrates East and West. She blazes the way toward a new kind of China rooted in tradition but connected to the world. She has accomplished this through her books and art.

     My Visual Diary, along with books like the bestselling Red Azalea by Anchee Min and blockbusters by novelists Amy Tan and Lisa See, demonstrate the appetite of American readers for stories of Chinese women and Chinese culture. There is still a shroud of mystery surrounding China. My Visual Diary pulls back that shroud, allowing us to connect with a remarkable woman. It is poised to fascinate English language readers and is an important addition to world literature.