Truth in Another Tongue

In the fall of 1991, at the age of 18, Yiyun Li reported to the barren city of Xinyang for a year in the Chinese army. The government had decreed that any student bound for Beijing's Peking University, as Li was, first had to complete a period of military training and political re-education—an ideological vaccine in the wake of Tiananmen. Li had been a high school student in Beijing during the protests, too young to take part herself, but she knew what had happened. That knowledge was dangerous. "Imagine a zipper on your mouth," her mother told Li before she left...

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