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December 2021: Shen Yang 沈阳

Born in Shandong, Shen Yang belongs to the millions of “invisible children” who violated the One-Child Policy and were forced to live in the shadows of the Chinese society. Amidst a troubled childhood, Shen Yang found solace in literature and graduated in Applied English. She has since completed a scriptwriting course in Beijing Film Academy, and now lives in Shanghai where she is crafting her latest works.

Bio from Shen Yang's website.

We're very happy to be featuring Shen Yang as our author of the month this December, especially as she'll be visiting us (virtually) for an event on Dec 1st, along with acclaimed translator Nicky Harman, to talk about the writing and translation of More Than One Child: Memoirs of an Illegal Daughter, recently published by Balestier Press.

In the late 1980s, Shen Yang was born during the fiercest years of China’s One-Child Policy. As the second daughter of the family, she was a massive liability – an excess child, a product of illegal birth.

From being raised by her grandparents in a remote village as soon as she was born, to being whisked away to her aunt’s home in a distant faraway city, Shen Yang’s existence was doomed to be shrouded in the utmost secrecy and silence. Armed with a false identity and ID card, she experienced years of neglect and humiliation from her aunt’s volatile family who saw her as yet another burden to bear. On top of it all, it seemed her own biological parents had come to forget about her.

In a riveting memoir, by turns witty and inspiring, Shen Yang bravely provides a vivid account of the family planning era in China, as she jots down her journey towards overcoming the limits of her upbringing and forging her own identity amidst the sorrows of her childhood.

More than One Child is not only Shen Yang’s story; it is the untold story of the enormous, yet invisible community of excess-birth children. And this book is Shen Yang’s way of saying goodbye to her childhood, and goodbye to an era.

For this month's Bookclub, we're grateful to Shen Yang, Nicky Harman, and Balestier Press for allowing us to feature chapter 3 of More Than One Child - 'Good-bye to being illegal', in both Chinese and in English translation. You can read the Chinese here and Nicky's translation here.

If you'd like to find out more about Shen Yang and her memoir, she talks to NüVoices podcast (also on Dec 1st), and she also discusses her book on Words Without Borders:

"Writers have focused almost exclusively on the “One-Child Generation,” talking at length about the social pressures of being an only child or about the gender imbalance issue, while other authors have denounced forced abortions and the abandonment of baby girls. Yet nobody has addressed the issue of the millions of babies who survived—but in the shadows, separated from their families, forever scarred by their past."

And you can find her on episode 59 of the Translated Chinese Fiction Podcast, along with Nicky Harman.

We also feature More Than One Child on our Book Review Network, so keep checking back to see what our reviewers think!