Hope everyone had a safe 4th of July weekend! I got to spend time with my family, boyfriend, and binging Shawna Yang Ryan’s Green Island. It was on my to-read list for quite a while, and when it was finally available at my local library as an ebook, I had to check it out.
Even though it’s a fiction novel, it feels incredibly relevant to the current political climate with protests and the quarantine, given that the novel starts with the protests and February 28 Massacre in 1947, and follows the life of the main character and her family saga through the SARS outbreak in the 2000s. I feel that I’ve learned and gained an insight into my parents’ upbringing during the White Terror in Taiwan, the intergenerational trauma with my grandfathers fleeing China for Taiwan, both my grandmothers growing up under Japanese occupation, and what my late grandfather must have gone through when he was a political prisoner on Green Island.
Shawna Yang Ryan writes beautifully. Although every family is unique, I felt that I could see my family’s history reflected in the Tsai family, especially with the traumatized father who is difficult to understand, even difficult to love, but has the family’s best intentions. When the main character marries and immigrates to Berkeley, California, where her husband earns his PhD and becomes a professor there, I couldn’t help but to geek out over my shared experience of living in Berkeley and earning my bachelor’s there. I felt that I was back in Berkeley!
Upon finishing the final page, I threw myself back in my chair and let out a loud exhale. I really felt that I went through a roller coaster ride reading all 400 pages. I loved that a list of books for further reading and research was included in the end, so I compiled a list on books on Taiwan, both fiction and non-fiction, on Goodreads here.
As ugly as the politics and discrimination and health policies and coverage are in America, one thing I will be grateful for is the freedom of speech and not fearing that someone could show up at my doorstep and kidnap or shoot me and my family for speaking our minds. I hope it stays that way.