‘Do Not Say We Have Nothing’: Madeline Thien Brings a Musical Narrative to Chinese History

Madeline Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing, shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction earlier this year and for the Man Booker in 2016, is a complex novel about family relationships set against periods of political and cultural upheaval in contemporary Chinese history, including the Land Reform Campaign, the Cultural Revolution, and the Tiananmen protests. The novel is written from the perspective of a ten-year-old overseas Chinese girl named Jiang Li-ling but also known by her English name, Marie. The plot traces Li-ling’s transition from adolescence to adulthood, dipping in and out of different periods in Chinese...

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