Annie Wang   Lili  
Annie Wang  
Read an Interview with Annie Wang

Read an Excerpt from Lili


Flaubert once said that words are a cracked pot and they fail to pour out the meaning of our hearts. If Flaubert's statement is true and words fail to capture feeling completely, writers must strive to come as close as possible to the nerve of feeling. The process of uncovering, removing layers and excavating is the goal. In that process of transcribing another's world, writers reveal the truth about out own. Annie Wang's Lili accomplishes this.

Though widely published in her native China, Lili is Annie's first English-written work. Written over a ten-year period, Wang essentially perfected her English to tell Lili's story. English offered Wang the room to explore--to uncover drives that inspire individualism in some, to dig under the surface of nationalism, to excavate the bonds on familial relationships. Using China's varied landscapes and people, Wang also explores the many visages of Chinese culture and how those visages conjoin to make up a Chinese world-view.

Lili tells the story of rebellion and renewal. Set in Cultural Revolution China, the story begins after Lili is relocated to a peasant village with her professor parents ("stinky Number 9's") for their reeducation. A village elder rapes Lili and as a result, at age 13, she flees for Beijing alone. Lili joins a street gang to survive, only later to be branded a “hooligan” by society and unable to gain employment. She is blinded by cynicism and pinned down under the monotony of time. However, when Lili finds love with an American journalist, in sharing her country with him, she begins to wake up to life. From the raw Mongolian landscape to the noisy, urban wilds of Beijing to isolated peasant villages, Lili introduces Roy to the full scope of Chinese culture, and learns to appreciate it as well. This novel ends with the events at Tiananmen Square--with political and personal action both for Lili and her country. Lili is no longer an observer, but a participant in her world.

In this issue of Bold Type you will find an excerpt of Lili as well as a Q &A with Annie Wang. In this interview Wang discusses growing up in China, her experience as a student in the United States and writing in English.

--Beth Weinstein

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  Photo credit: Steve Dahlgren

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