A search for Language, love, and belonging
A Memoir Seeking Representation/Publication
"Heart Radical is a richly absorbing, deeply moving book about one woman’s search for identity, enlightenment, and connection. It’s also a tender travel memoir that takes the reader on an unforgettable and intimate journey with the author as she grapples with being a twentysomething American in China—the country from which her mother immigrated. I loved this book. It’s vulnerable, searching, insightful, riveting and beautifully written." - CHERYL STRAYED, author of Wild
“Come say a few words to Popo,” my mother held the phone out to me every Sunday night in middle school, beckoning me to speak with my Chinese grandmother in L.A. Obediently, I’d slump over and answer a few questions about my health then close with, wo ai ni, I love you, before handing the phone back to my mom. Popo had lived with us in Seattle when I was little, so I grew up speaking both English and Chinese. But now, I felt ashamed at how little I could say. Afterwards I’d go to my room and cry. I’d always been the good girl, doing as I was told on the surface, yet secretly rebelling inside. In college I finally began to erupt from that shell. “I’m quitting school and going to China,” I announced, braced for my family’s discouragement. China was backwards and dangerous, relatives said. “Anne is out of control,” they whispered. But I knew I had to go and see what I’d find, just like I knew I needed to finally learn how to act and speak from my heart.
Heart Radical: A Search for Language, Love, and Belonging is the story of how I traveled through China, the country of my mother’s birth, hoping to understand how my path in life was tied to my mother tongue. Along the way, I tried on different roles: seeker in Tibet; rebellious English teacher in Chengdu; artist and girlfriend learning about sex in Chinese; daughter discovering her roots; and a woman, years later, making sense of it all—learning that to live my truth as a mixed race, bilingual woman was to embrace all of my influences and layers. In a world that often wants us to choose a side or fit an ideal—whether quiet and polite, or bold and outspoken—I learned how I could both belong and not belong wherever I was: whether turning Tibetan prayer wheels, closing my eyes on a bar’s dance floor, remembering what it felt like to be welcomed as family when visiting my long lost uncle in Tianjin, or returning to my home in the Pacific Northwest.
In Heart Radical, language becomes a rich metaphor for our own complicated and changing identities. “To be radical,” Anne Liu Kellor tells us, “is to be rooted in your essential nature.” In this soulful memoir, Kellor looks to the many ways language is a means of communication, yes, but can also be a barrier to a full understanding of ourselves and of each other. In following Kellor’s journey to China and back again, we find ourselves searching for what is most radical—most essential—in our own hearts. - BRENDA MILLER, author of An Earlier Life