Last Boat Out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao's Revolution

Ballantine.Jan. 2019. 528p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780345522320. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780525618867. HIST
OrangeReviewStarJournalist Zia (Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People) writes a compelling history of five individuals and their families who escaped Shanghai during the Chinese Civil War (1946–50). The chapters alternate among accounts of Benny, Ho, Bing, Annuo, and Doreen, beginning when they were children on the eve of the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s. The book concludes in the 1950s, when they are young adults scattered across the globe in Nanjing, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the United States. They each come from very different backgrounds and either begin their lives in Shanghai or end up there during the course of World War II. After Japan's defeat, elation was replaced with fear as the civil war between the Nationalists and Communists resumed. When a Communist victory becomes certain, these families are forced to make difficult decisions about whether to leave the country.
VERDICT The stories of these refugees offer a window into Chinese culture, family life, and the history of this tumultuous period, resulting in a beautiful and emotional work that should be essential reading for those interested in 20th-century Chinese history.

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