Categories
China Family ghosts Shanghai War

School days

Today is Dad’s 97th birthday. He’s not around anymore to tell us his stories but I find new ones every day. About his school days in China, for example. China in the late 19th century didn’t have an established higher education system, but rather scattered private academies that helped train scholars to pass the imperial […]

Categories
Family ghosts Shanghai

Church

When Dad was a kid in Shanghai, he listened to music all the time. A British marching band used to practice up on Jessfield Road. Downstairs were his sister and her piano teacher, a White Russian princess who smelled like cats. Dad sprawled on the floor of his father’s study to listen to records on […]

Categories
Shanghai

Emily Hahn

Emily Hahn is what you might call an adventuress. She liked to be called Mickey. She had a deep-seated desire for opium and a pet gibbon named Mr. Mills. Hahn held a degree in mining engineering and a lot of street smarts. Her first book was a satirical look at the way men court women, […]

Categories
Chinese language Shanghai

The Street Where You Live

Now that the dust has settled from our trip around the world, it’s time to revisit my novel-in-progress, Peace Court. To be honest, I’m a little scared to venture down that street. What if my trip has caused a reality shift due to time or distance or both? What if I have to rewrite the […]

Categories
Shanghai

Lady Bankers

As a former lady lawyer, I’m sympathetic to professional women trying to make it in this day and age. Imagine, then, what that must have been like in 1920s Shanghai. The Shanghai Women’s Bank opened its doors in 1924. A woman founded that bank. She staffed it exclusively with women to cater to the specific […]

Categories
Shanghai

Shanghai Mind

To shanghai is to Force (someone) to join a ship lacking a full crew by drugging them or using other underhand means. The word dates back to late 19th century Shanghai and, indeed, all the tropes are there. The drugs, the crime, the indentured service. When we think of the residents of Shanghai, we see […]

Categories
Shanghai War

Father Jacquinot

Robert Jacquinot de Besange is the stuff of legends. He was born in 1878 into the French aristocracy. The young Jacquinot lost his right arm in a chemistry explosion. Undeterred, he went on to become a Jesuit. At the age of 25, he arrived in Shanghai. His assignment was to serve the Portuguese congregation at […]

Categories
China Revolution Shanghai

Propaganda

The Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre is a tourist attraction. TimeOut calls it one of Shanghai’s best museums and a “must-see”. This is the description from my dog-eared 2008 guide: a stunning collection of original posters from 1949 to 1979 [with] images of ruddy-cheeked Chinese peasants crushing imperialist Uncle Sam underfoot. The museum sits in […]

Categories
Amsterdam Chinese-American Language Los Angeles Shanghai

Migrant Writing

migrant ˈmʌɪɡr(ə)nt/ noun a person who moves from one place to another in order to find work or better living conditions I am a migrant. I moved from the United States to the Netherlands because my husband got the job of his dreams in Amsterdam. My parents are migrants, too, leaving China for America for […]

Categories
Craft Family ghosts Revolution Shanghai

Socialism Is Great!

When I started work on my novel Peace Court, I looked for sources to feed my imagination. I found plenty of history books but almost no fiction that dwelt on Shanghai in the early 1950s. Certainly none that originated from inside China. I wondered why that was the case. This is what I learned. revolutionary […]