Madeleine Thien and Her Asian Historical Fiction

February 28, 2018 | Helen

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Madeline Thien, who was born in Vancouver in 1974, loved to read as a child, but there were no books for her at home, so she borrowed them from the library. She says she always knew she was going to be a writer, because for her literature is a "magic, incredible world." She studied English literature and modern dance at Simon Fraser University before entering the masters program at the University of British Columbia, specializing in creative writing. She has gone on to write a series of critically acclaimed novels that have won a number of awards, including a Governor General's Award and the Scotiabank Giller Prize.


Certainty, Thien's debut novel, relates the tale of a generation of young people living in Vancouver who seek to learn about the Japanese occupation of Malaysia and how it affected their family histories. The book won the in Canada First Novel Award and the Ovid Festival Prize.



The Chinese Violin tells the story of Lin Lin and her father immigrating to Canada from China. On their journey, they bring with them one of their most treasured possessions – a traditional Chinese violin.


Do Not Say We Have Nothing describes the sufferings of several generations of Chinese people – from the very beginning of the war of resistance against Japan to the land reform, anti-rightist and cultural revolutions, until now. The book won the Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction and the Scotiabank Giller Prize.



Dogs at the Perimeter explores the disasters that the Khmer Rouge Regime brought to the ordinary people of Cambodia. The book won de:LiBeraturpreis, awarded by the Frankfurt Book Fair.



Simple Recipes is a collection of short stories about families torn apart by conflict between generations, cultures and values. The book won the City of Vancouver Book Award, the VanCity Book Prize and the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize.