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2021 - Shortlisted
In Mao’s new China, Andrew Kwong begins life as an enthusiastic revolutionary who memorises the communist chants and songs. But his beloved parents are intellectuals and teachers, and this has them marked as traitors. What follows is a heartbreaking tale of brutal re-education and survival. Kwong witnesses his first execution at age seven, and then his father is arrested and put on trial. Kwong is the first in his family to escape the famine and persecution that follows.
Kwong does not seek to overwhelm the reader with bleak language or overwrought analysis, but to give these terrible moments ballast. He crafts a memoir built on love and hope that reaches out from the pages and asks the reader to truly contemplate the sacrifices his family made for him, in love’s name. Kwong wields language with precision and admirable restraint. The finished product is a powerful work of storytelling and a terrific debut.