British Columbia

Vancouver an essential part of my work, says Giller prize winner Madeleine Thien

Madeleine Thien, who picked up the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize last night for Do Not Say We Have Nothing, talks to CBC's The Early Edition about the influences on her writing.

'It's impossible for me to write anything that isn't in Vancouver in some way,' says Thien

Writer Madeleine Thien poses with her book Do Not Say We Have Nothing. She won the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize. (Alastair Grant/Associated Press)

The accolades for Vancouver-raised author Madeleine Thien's newest book Do Not Say We Have Nothing keep coming.

Fresh off winning the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction and getting short-listed for International Man Booker prize, Madeleine Thien won the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize Monday night.

"I slept three hours. But it was enough," Thien laughed. "I think I'm on adrenaline, wonder and all those good emotions."

Her novel follows a mother and daughter in Vancouver who host a woman from China who has fled the country in the aftermath of then Tiananmen Square protests on 1989. The book spans generations and countries, against a backdrop of music, revolution and art.

It depicts how the legacy of the Cultural Revolution continues among Chinese immigrants in the city.

"It's impossible for me to write anything that isn't in Vancouver in some way or isn't completely part of the city's landscape or changing landscape or state of being in a way," she explained.

Thien said she hoped the award win will increase readership and inspire conversations about history and identity.

"It makes me so overjoyed because this is a book that really wants to speak," she said.

Pays tribute to late mother

"The idea of lost histories, of unofficial memory — they can speak to all of our countries and all of our societies. It's what we choose to remember about ourselves, what our governments want us to imagine about ourselves, and what goes unspoken underneath those things."

On a more personal note, Thien said she wished her late mother would have been able to witness the book's success.

"She had arrived with my father and my siblings, who were very young at that time, to Vancouver in 1974," she said.

"She wanted to give us as much access to the arts, to literature, to culture, to anything she felt would help us live these fuller lives, even when financially it was so difficult for her to do so. I'm so grateful to her."

With files from The Early Edition


To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled 2016 Giller prize winner Madeleine Thien

now