By Kate Wilson
Updated March 25, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST

”She said she could chop my head in two like chopping a watermelon.” As this vast, incredible autobiography of a Communist Chinese immigrant unfolds, the ax- wielding neighbor becomes Min’s smallest problem. Brainwashed as a child into accusing a beloved teacher of imperialism, Min weeps as the aging woman is beaten before 2,000 people. At 17, Min welcomes the chance to glorify Mao by working on a labor farm, where she falls in love with Yan, her female commander. The affair endangers them both, so Yan sacrifices herself to protect Min. The author experiences all this before she is 27; her amazing prose pulses like a heartbeat through every page. Red Azalea is fairy-tale stuff, grim and surreal, but these tales are true, every one. A