Winnie M Li – Translating personal experience into fiction

Winnie M Li, author, activist and film producer took part in our China in Context festival, describing how she translated her personal experience into fiction for her debit novel, Dark Chapter. During this talk, Li was in conversation with BBC Journalist Helier Cheung.

Li’s debut novel Dark Chapter is a fictionalised account of her own experience as the victim of sexual assault. Through the character of Vivian, a cosmopolitan Taiwanese-American tourist, Li’s novel explores both the trauma of violent sexual assault and also looks inside the mind of the perpetrator.

In her talk, Li read from her novel, and then reflected on the difficulties around constantly revisiting these traumatic events when writing her work. She described the challenges faced by people who have experienced sexual assault and how it felt to have to recount her experience over and over again when seeking help and treatment. Li talked about her work to increase awareness, and her hope that encouraging dialogue will help survivors, and go towards preventing rape and sexual violence in the future.

A Harvard graduate, Li has programmed for film festivals, written for travel guidebooks and produced independent feature films such as Cashback (2006), The Broken (2008), and Flashbacks of a Fool (2008). Dark Chapter won The Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize, and has been shortlisted for the prestigious Edgar Award for Best First Novel, the Sl Leeds Literary Prize, and CWA Debut Dagger. It will be translated into eight languages.

The conversation was be compered by Helier Cheung, an editor and reporter for the BBC news website. Helier began her career as a civil servant and then a BBC news trainee, before working as an Asia specialist and Hong Kong correspondent for the BBC.