Green Island

Shawna Yang Ryan. Knopf, $26.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-101-87425-7
Ryan (Water Ghosts) reshapes the immigrant tale in this precise and poetic work. The book garners depth from its ambitious desire to take on—rather than sidestep—the shifting political climate of its Taiwanese landscape. The unnamed narrator is born in 1947 at the start of a government-led massacre in Taipei, and she enters into a turbulent time of lies and violence—one she seems incapable of escaping no matter how far she goes from her home. She settles years later in California. Though in her youth she questions the betrayal her father makes in order to protect his family, she finds herself confronting the same problem as an adult. The vigilant government seeks to silence all critique of the dictatorial regime; it threatens her safety and that of her children, leading to a loss that even her past cannot prepare her for. "How far back would my wishes have to go to erase all of it?" she thinks. First through the experiences of the narrator's birth family in Taiwan, and then through the gaze of the family she creates in Berkeley with her activist husband, Ryan grants readers a closer look at the deep connections between familial love and the inescapability of history, both personal and political. This is a significant work, full of carefully researched detail that results in a moving and indelible story. Agent Daniel Lazar, Writers House. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 03/07/2016
Release date: 02/01/2016
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-1-101-87236-9
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