book cover of Radical


A Life of My Own
A non fiction book by

From NBCC-winning author of Nine Continents Xiaolu Guo, Radical is a provocative memoir and an intercultural feminist lexicon of a sojourn in New York that upended her sense of self as a woman, partner, mother, and artist

From the acclaimed author of Nine Continents and a Granta Best Young British Novelist, Radical is an enchanting reflection on identity and meaning from the fringe of society.

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, Xiaolu traveled to New York to take up her position as a visiting professor for a year, leaving her child and partner behind in London. The encounter with American culture and people threatened her sense of identity and threw her into a crisis – of meaning, desire, obligation, and selfhood. 

This is a book about separation - by continents, by language, and from people. It's about being an outsider and the desperate longing to connect. Xiaolu uses her exploration of language (one of the meanings of the word “radical” is the graphic component, or root, of Chinese characters), and her own life, to create this unique text. At once a memoir, a dictionary, and an ardent love letter, it is an expression of her fascination with Western culture and her nostalgia for Eastern landscapes, and an attempt to describe the space in between. An archive of an artist's search for creative freedom, it is above all else an intimate account of her efforts to begin anew.

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