NüVoices Podcast #68: More Than One Child: A Conversation with memoirist Shen Yang

Scriptwriter Shen Yang is the author of More Than One Child: Memoirs of an Illegal Daughter, which was just translated into English by Nicky Harman earlier this year in August. She joins this installment of the NüVoices Podcast with host Sophia Yan, where they discuss her turbulent childhood being shuttled between relatives and living in hiding as an “excess child” during China’s one-child policy. This episode also covers the current state of family planning in China, Shen Yang’s friendships with other fellow excess children, and the longlasting impact of the one-child policy in Chinese society today.

**Note: Trigger warning at the 28 minute mark for graphic descriptions of domestic violence.

You can read an excerpt of Shen Yang’s memoir on the NüVoices website here.  

About More Than One Child (from Balestier Press)

“In the late 1980s, Shen Yang was born during the fiercest years of China’s One-Child Policy. As the second daughter of the family, she was a massive liability – an excess child, a product of illegal birth.

From being raised by her grandparents in a remote village as soon as she was born, to being whisked away to her aunt’s home in a distant faraway city, Shen Yang’s existence was doomed to be shrouded in the utmost secrecy and silence. Armed with a false identity and ID card, she experienced years of neglect and humiliation from her aunt’s volatile family who saw her as yet another burden to bear. On top of it all, it seemed her own biological parents had come to forget about her.

In a riveting memoir, by turns witty and inspiring, Shen Yang bravely provides a vivid account of the family planning era in China, as she jots down her journey towards overcoming the limits of her upbringing and forging her own identity amidst the sorrows of her childhood.

More than One Child is not only Shen Yang’s story; it is the untold story of the enormous, yet invisible community of excess-birth children. And this book is Shen Yang’s way of saying goodbye to her childhood, and goodbye to an era.”

About Shen Yang:

Shen Yang came to the world as an ‘excess child’ (heihaizi) and does not legally exist. Born in Shandong, China, in 1986, she belongs to the millions of excess-birth children who violated the One-Child Policy and were forced to live away from their families into the shadows of Chinese society. Amidst a troubled childhood, Shen Yang found solace in literature and graduated in Applied English. She has since completed a scriptwriting course at Beijing Film Academy and now lives in Shanghai, where she is crafting her latest works. Visit her website here.


Shen Yang: China Unbound by our very own Joanna Chiu! She also recommends Our Story by Rao Pingru 饶平如 (translated into English by Nicky Harman.

Sophia: Shen Yang’s memoir More Than One Child.