Xiaolu Guo, Autobiography Winner for ‘Nine Continents’

By Marion Winik

Laurie Hertzel, chair of the autobiography committee, presented the award for Nine Continents, by Xiaolu Guo, to her Grove editor, Amy Hundley

Xiaolu Guo was born in Communist China to bdestitute parents who relinquished her at age 2. She went to live in a fishing village with her illiterate and impoverished grandparents. So begins Nine Continents, Guo’s tumultuous memoir that scales not only continents, but cultural and emotional landscapes, too.

Under communism’s gloomy veil and Guo’s dubious beginnings, we see, through Guo’s acute eye, children sob and starve. We see women’s feet bound and generations weep. We see men rape girls and discard them.

Nine Continents is not a victim story, but a story of triumph.

How Xiaolu Guo found her way to Beijing and finally out of China is a thrilling, fist-pumping story, but the merits of this book are greater than that.

Hers is a mythic journey: from poverty to fecundity, from communism to capitalism, from the “we” to the “I,” from inside to outside, the latter culminating in her leaving behind a harrowing past. How can a human endure so much with so little and still end up a celebrated author and filmmaker? The answers lie within the pages of this enthralling, elegant book.