A graphic novel retelling of an event that most of our students are probably too young to remember. I don’t remember seeing it on the news in 1989 either, but we’ve all seen the iconic picture. But beyond that, I know way too little about this event. So I picked this book up to review.
The author, Lun Zhang, is one of the students who survived and luckily escaped to France afterwards. He writes the story from the perspective of his “fictional twin” who sees and goes through similar but not identical events in the course of these two months in 1989. Thus the story is not quite an autobiography, but it certainly has the immediacy and intensity of one. On the front and back endpages of the book, he includes several mementos of the student movement such as scarves painted with slogans, bus tickets, and ID booklets.
The artwork and lettering in this book feels like pretty typical graphic novel style (the artwork is done by Ameziane), leaning heavily on the blacks, grays/tans, and just occasional pops of red that fit the theme. On a five-page spread documenting the worst of Saturday, June 3 and Sunday, June 4, 1989, the square illustrations are printed on solid black pages, and the narration of the machine-gun fire and the tanks rolling into crowds of students is presented, chillingly, as most of the West would have heard of it — in the voiceovers of the journalist from the BBC.
A sobering and eye-opening, yet accessible, view into an important time period in modern Chinese history. The reverberations of that time, in the falling of the Berlin Wall later in 1989, in the Arab Spring, in how many other places, are probably still being felt.
Tiananmen 1989: Our shattered hopes
by Lun Zhang
New Arrivals, 2nd Floor
DS779.32 .Z43 2020