Helen Zia's LAST BOAT OUT OF SHANGHAI
Please join us for a reading and discussion with Helen Zia, author of Last Boat Out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao's Revolution—
—who will be in conversation with Tiffany Chang Lawson, Executive Director of Governor Tom Wolf’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs!
About LAST BOAT OUT OF SHANGHAI
The dramatic real life stories of four young people caught up in the mass exodus of Shanghai in the wake of China’s 1949 Communist revolution—a heartrending precursor to the struggles faced by emigrants today.
“I have long been an admirer of Helen Zia’s writing and scholarship, but Last Boat Out of Shanghai is at a whole new level. It’s a true page-turner. Zia has proven once again that history is something that happens to real people. I stayed up late reading night after night, because I wanted to know what would happen to Benny, Ho, Bing, Annuo, and their friends and families.”—Lisa See, author of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
Shanghai has historically been China’s jewel, its richest, most modern and westernized city. The bustling metropolis was home to sophisticated intellectuals, entrepreneurs, and a thriving middle class when Mao’s proletarian revolution emerged victorious from the long civil war. Terrified of the horrors the Communists would wreak upon their lives, citizens of Shanghai who could afford to fled in every direction. Seventy years later, members of the last generation to fully recall this massive exodus have revealed their stories to Chinese American journalist Helen Zia, who interviewed hundreds of exiles about their journey through one of the most tumultuous events of the twentieth century. From these moving accounts, Zia weaves together the stories of four young Shanghai residents who wrestled with the decision to abandon everything for an uncertain life as refugees in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the United States.
Benny, who as a teenager became the unwilling heir to his father’s dark wartime legacy, must decide either to escape to Hong Kong or navigate the intricacies of a newly Communist China. The resolute Annuo, forced to flee her home with her father, a defeated Nationalist official, becomes an unwelcome exile in Taiwan. The financially strapped Ho fights deportation from the U.S. in order to continue his studies while his family struggles at home. And Bing, given away by her poor parents, faces the prospect of a new life among strangers in America. The lives of these men and women are marvelously portrayed, revealing the dignity and triumph of personal survival.
Herself the daughter of immigrants from China, Zia is uniquely equipped to explain how crises like the Shanghai transition affect children and their families, students and their futures, and, ultimately, the way we see ourselves and those around us. Last Boat Out of Shanghai brings a poignant personal angle to the experiences of refugees then and, by extension, today.
HELEN ZIA is the author of Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People, a finalist for the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize (Bill Clinton referred to the book in two separate Rose Garden speeches). Zia is the co-author, with Wen Ho Lee, of My Country Versus Me: The First-Hand Account by the Los Alamos Scientist Who Was Falsely Accused of Being a Spy. She is also a former executive editor of Ms. magazine. A Fulbright Scholar, Zia first visited China in 1972, just after President Nixon’s historic trip. A graduate of Princeton University, she holds an honorary doctor of laws degree from the City University of New York School of Law and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
TIFFANY CHANG LAWSON serves as the Executive Director of Governor Tom Wolf’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs & Director of Special Projects for Governor Wolf, working specifically on election modernization initiatives in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of State, the 2020 Census, and language access policy initiatives at the Commonwealth. At the Commission, Tiffany works with a state-wide team of dynamic and diverse professionals that are appointed by Governor Wolf to serve as the advocate agency in state government responsible for advising Governor Wolf and the Administration on policies, legislation, and procedures that impact the diverse AAPI communities across Pennsylvania.
This event is co-sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania's Asian American Studies Program, Pan-Asian American Community House, Asian Pacific Student Coalition, & Asian American Studies Undergraduate Advisory Board.