I was nearly 14 the summer that the Chinese government quashed the student democracy movement centered in Beijing; I remember seeing media coverage of the tanks rolling into Tiananmen Square in June of 1989 and fearing the worst for the protesters, most of whom were only a few years older than me. But when I started high school in the fall, no one talked about what had happened, and I went on to form the same ideas of Chinas government that most Westerners hold today: a repressive, secretive regime beginning to reap the benefits of capitalism and global production while keeping the majority of its citizens desperately poor and punishing anyone who dared to question its motives.
Diane Wei Liangs memoir of growing up in China during the 1970s and '80s corroborates this damning portrayal of the government but also gives that time a human dimension often lacking in...
Beyond the Book
Chinese Propaganda Posters
At one point in Lake with No Name
, Diane Wei Liang recounts her harrowing childhood experience bringing cabbage in from the frost, a yearly event that all the children at the collective had to participate in to demonstrate their strength and patriotism. Liang describes becoming ill with fever after carrying damp, cold cabbages for hours, and then listening to the radio announcers praise the heroic efforts of the peasantry in preserving the winter crop. As miserable as this task was in reality, it would have made the ideal subject for a Chinese propaganda poster, the state-sponsored artwork that dominated the Chinese cultural landscape...