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ChinaFile Presents: “Nine Continents”—A Conversation with Memoirist Xiaolu Guo

As a young child, Xiaolu Guo visited a Taoist monk who pronounced her a “peasant warrior.” “She will cross the sea and travel to the Nine Continents,” the monk predicted.
But Guo didn’t need a prophecy to tell her to pursue a life beyond her grandparents’ poor fishing village on the East China Sea. Through sheer determination, and a bit of luck, she won a spot at China’s most prestigious film school, the Beijing Film Academy. In the nation’s capital, during the 1990s, she witnessed a bustling art world, wrote scripts for Chinese audiences crazy about soap operas, and fell in love with a foreigner. In her late 20s, Guo finally “crossed the sea” after accepting an art fellowship just outside of London—the city where she would ultimately build a life.

After many years away from China, Guo has become “a nomad in both body and mind,” not quite Chinese anymore and yet never totally at ease in London. Her latest book, Nine Continents: A Memoir in and Out of China, explores how Chinese families coped with the Cultural Revolution, China’s rapid economic growth, and a globalized world.