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Heart Radical: A Search for Language, Love, and Belonging

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Wanting to understand how her path is tied to her mother tongue, Anne, a young, multiracial American woman, travels through China, the country of her mother’s birth. Along the way, she tries on different roles—seeker, teacher, student, girlfriend, artist, and daughter—and continually asks herself: Why do I feel called to make this journey?

Whether witnessing a Tibetan sky burial, teaching English at a university in Chengdu, visiting her grandmother in LA, or falling in love with a Chinese painter, Anne is always in pursuit of intimacy with others, even as she is all too aware of her silences and separation. For two years, she settles into a comfortable routine in her boyfriend’s apartment and regains fluency in Chinese, a language she spoke as a young child but has used less and less as an adult. Eventually, however, her desire to know herself in other ways surfaces again. She misses speaking English, she feels suffocated by urban, polluted China, and she starts to fall for another man. Ultimately, Anne realizes that to live her truth as a mixed-race, bilingual woman she must embrace all of her influences and layers. In a world that often wants us to choose a side or fit an ideal, she learns that she can both belong and not belong wherever she is, and that home is ultimately found within.

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