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Agnes Smedley Biography

(1892–1950), Daughter of Earth, Battle Hymn of China, Chinese Destinies, China Fights Back, The Great Road

china chinese revolution autobiographical

American writer and reporter, born in North-West Mississippi; she grew up in circumstances of rural poverty. Her autobiographical novel Daughter of Earth (1929)—recognized as a feminist-proletarian classic—recounts, with power and depth, her struggle to liberate herself from the confines of her background, her self-education, her escape to Europe, and her encounter with the politics of Indian nationalism in the person of her lover, the revolutionary ‘Anand’ (a portrait of the Indian nationalist Virendranath Chattopadhyaya.) Here Smedley adopts a fictional persona, Marie Rogers, and the events of her life are altered and telescoped to accommodate the demands of fiction. However, in her subsequent major autobiographical work, Battle Hymn of China (1943), she abandons narrative masks and fictive strategies. Summarizing the facts behind the novel's fictions in ten pages, she links it to her ‘real’ life, and proceeds to document her discovery of, and her commitment to, the Chinese Revolution-inprocess, and her friendships with several of its seminal political and literary figures, including Mao himself. Smedley's exemplary non-doctrinaire political commitment also illuminates her various works on China such as Chinese Destinies (1933), China Fights Back (1934), the posthumous The Great Road (a biography of Chu Teh, 1956); and Portraits of Chinese Women in Revolution (1976), edited and introduced by her biographers, Jan and Steve Mackinnon.

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