As a mixed-race, bilingual Chinese American woman, Anne grew up unsure where she belonged. In her 20s, she traveled alone to live and teach English in China, her mother's birthplace, a journey toward self-actualization she considers with the wisdom of middle age.
Like the best literary heroines, Heart Radical’s protagonist declines again and again with each new turn of the story to be subsumed by the men she meets in her travels. Even in the confusion and darkness that guides much of her odyssey, this self-professed quiet, heteronormative good girl nevertheless listens until she can hear her body and mind. To do so, she leans on her senses, on art, literature, dance, meditation, and mostly language. This writer digs until she finds and exposes that deeply human hum. Her prose is at its best in the story’s most vulnerable moments ... The narrative choice to look back from middle age at her travels 20 years ago brings an important complexity that works to pull the story forward. A creative writing professor, Kellor seems to understand this, and it is her expert framing of her younger self’s search for her true nature through the lens of language acquisition that forms the book’s spine. The most charming among these tensions are the contradictions ... Kellor has made a unique and tender contribution to the conversation about what it means to be fully alive.
... [a] sensitive, soulful memoir ... her descriptions of her surroundings and the unfamiliar customs she witnesses are rich and vivid ... Most resonant for me throughout her memoir is her interrogation of both the usefulness and harm of silence; how honing her instincts as an independent person allowed her to find and use her voice ... Finally, this memoir is Kellor’s victory in overcoming her own silence. To offer and witness herself on the page.
... intimate and revealing ... Kellor is attentive to the legacies of war, famine, secrecy, and betrayal that are held in the silent, cellular memories of her ancestors. As the book progresses, she learns to accept that the only place she can truly belong is in her own essential nature. A story about love and loss, Heart Radical is a memoir that also expresses willingness to be broken open and vulnerable.