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Shawna Yang Ryan is a former Fulbright scholar and the author of one previous novel, Water Ghosts; she teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. Her short fiction has appeared in ZYZZYVA, The Asian American Literary Review, Kartika Review, and Berkeley Fiction Review. She lives in Honolulu.
Author photo © Anna Wu Photography 2015
‘Green Island’ is a breathtaking novel, it’s emotional, thought-provoking and absolutely fascinating. Set in Taiwan and the USA between 1947 and 2003, the novel focuses on one family, yet the story is presented on an epic scale. This is a work of fiction, however elements are based on fact, and the tale weaves its way through shocking, brutal times. Shawnee Yang Ryan sets the tale in motion using an unnamed narrator, she is the youngest daughter of the family set in the novel, and as the narrator she adds an intensity and greater connection to the story. There is a perceptive understanding of human nature portrayed in this tale and it all feels so very very real. The writing is expressive, vibrant and able to touch feelings with a raw intensity, yet it can also hold a moment of beauty with delicate empathy. ‘Green Island’ is a novel that encouraged me to look further into this time in Taiwan’s history, it is also, quite simply, a beautifully touching read.
Taipei, February 28, 1947: As an uprising rocks Taiwan, a young doctor is taken from his newborn daughter by Chinese Nationalists, on charges of speaking out against the government. Although he eventually returns to his family, his arrival is marked by alienation from his loved ones and paranoia among his community. Years later, this troubled past follows his youngest daughter to America, where, as a mother and a wife, she too is forced to decide between what is right and what might save her family--the same choice she witnessed her father make many years before. A stunningly lyrical story of a family and a nation grappling with the nuances of complicity and survival, Green Island raises the question: how far would you go for the ones you love?