Book Review: Readings

Annie Wang


A Novel of Tiananmen

by Annie Wang

Pantheon, 320 pp., $24

Lili: A Novel of Tiananmen tells two stories. Narrated by the brash young woman of the title, who has just been released from prison after serving time for "corrupt life-style and hooliganism," the first tells of Lili's struggle to put a life together in the aftermath of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The second, illuminated by her tale, is the story of China itself. When a love affair with an American man forces Lili to face her past in order to embrace her future, the reader is easily wrapped up in her heartbreaking journey. When she is 12, we find her in Monkey Village, a rural town where she is "re-educated" with her parents, who have been branded disreputable intellectuals. She is forced to feed pigs and spy on her parents, and is eventually raped by the Party secretary. Lili escapes to Beijing, where she finds another world of chaotic sex and violence. By the time the novel begins, the world has changed for young Chinese, and Lili must eventually decide if she will leave China forever. Her knowledge that if she stays, her children will have "the same humiliating existence I have. A Chinese life" is tempered by her love for the city that once brought her joy.

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Lili: A Novel of Tiananmen, Annie Wang

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