Early bloomer Wang thrives with
By Tara McKelvey, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON ！ Some people would call Annie
Wang an overachiever. A native of Beijing, Wang started
writing poetry when she was in third grade. At 14, she
published her first newspaper article ！ about a Eurasian pop
star ！ and won an award for it from the Beijing Youth
Daily. Several books followed, including An Ode to
Searching, published while Wang was in high school. She's
When Wang witnessed the uprising in
Tiananmen Square in 1989, she knew she would write about it.
Yet she decided to write in English rather than her native
language. It wasn't sheer folly that led to her decision.
Wang, who was 17 when she started to write Lili: A Novel of
Tiananmen (Pantheon, $24; 2001), thought it would be hard
to express her feelings in Chinese.
"English allows me to write without
self-censorship," says Wang. "In this book, I wrote about
female sexuality and racism. Nobody talks about that in China.
I also realized I couldn't write it in Chinese because there
are too many cultural landmines.
"There are certain words like
'individualism,' 'privacy' and 'ambition' that ！ if you
translate them into Chinese ！ have very bad connotations.
'Individualism' means 'egotism' and 'selfishness.' "
Favorable write-ups in The New
Yorker, Details, Publishers Weekly and other
publications assured Lili a warm welcome in America.
Her latest work, a novella called The Proper Daughter,
is about two sisters who live in a traditional family in
Beijing. One of them runs off to America. When she returns to
China years later, she finds her well-behaved sister has
"Her big sister ！ who once wanted to give
up her marriage to serve her parents ！ is actually a lesbian
who secretly organizes sex parties," Wang says.