There is a saying in Dutch: Never do you forget the language in which your mother loved you. For me, that language is English. Like many new immigrants, my parents raised my siblings and I to speak and think in the language of the new home. My mother watched in quiet curiosity as I hoarded books from the library. Like my sister’s daughter, who is now 11, I read at the breakfast table, in the car, on the bus, even while walking. She must have been certain that I dreamed in English because it was the only language that I had, and the one in which she had loved me.
—Madeleine Thien, “But, I dream in Canadian”
Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing has won the 2016 Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction. The novel follows “the lives of two successive generations—those who lived through Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the mid-twentieth century; and the children of the survivors, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square in 1989, in one of the most important political moments of the past century” (from Random House Canada).
Do Not Say We Have Nothing is also a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Man Booker Prize, and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. We are proud to congratulate Thien on this honour, and we invite you to visit Canadian Literature’s articles on and book reviews of her work:
- “Uncertain Landscapes: Risk, Trauma, and Scientific Knowledge in Madeleine Thien’s Certainty and Dogs at the Perimeter” by Tania Aguila-Way. Published in Science & Canadian Literature. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 221 (2014): 18-35.
- “Forgetting Loss in Madeleine Thien’s Certainty” by Y-Dang Troeung. Published in Canadian Literature 206 (2010): 91-108.