During an uprising in 1947 Taipei, a baby is born to Dr. Tsai. It is his fourth child, a daughter, and martial law and unrest are omnipresent in Taipei. Dr. Tsai speaks at a rally and is soon carted off by the secret police to a prison on Green Island. He remains in prison for 11 years while his family leaves their home and returns to his wife’s parent’s home. Neighbors and secret police are constantly watching all citizens, which leads to fear and alienation by everyone. When the father returns, he is a shell of his former self and essentially untouched by others due to their fear that they, too, could be imprisoned just due to association.
The daughter marries a Taiwanese professor and moves to America with him. Even though they are far from Taipei, Wei, the husband, is still involved in the political environment in Taiwan. Soon, Wei and his wife are being followed and their actions in the United States affect their families in Taiwan.
Green Island, by Shawna Yang Ryan, is a book centered on family and love of country. The writing is lyrical and mesmerizing. Scared citizens, love, and betrayal are easily transcended through the written word by Shawna Yang Ryan’s skilled writing. “The world does not happen the way we lay it out on paper: one event after another, one word following the next like a trail of ants.” The reader learns about the history and struggles of Taiwan while cast in ordinary struggles of love, fear, and ultimately, hope.
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