#9: Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

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Ashley’s book pick for January was Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, which won the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize. We collectively adored this book – in our podcast we talk about the cultural history of China, the importance of reclaiming history, classical music, calligraphy, and lots more. Communism obviously came up a little bit.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Did you learn anything about the construction of Chinese language and characters? Do you think the multiple inflections and meanings of the words contributed to the intricacies of the book?  Also, did you draw any connections between what we learned about Chinese culture from Ghost Bride and this novel?
  2. What did you think of the author’s use of music in the novel? What role does music play in shaping characters, advancing the plot, and creating parallels?

  3. Discuss the impact of family, communist values and class in this novel.

  4. To this day, the Chinese government censors how its history is presented to its own citizens. Though the extent of this censorship changes all the time, many Chinese people still don’t fully know what led to or happened during the events of the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, or the Tianmen Square protests. Do you think Thien’s novel is successful at “reclaiming” China’s last century of history, even though it’s fiction?

The music in this episode is (fittingly) The Open Goldberg Variation Project, which we got from freemusicarchive.org.

Happy reading!

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