Where Tigers Flew
by Rebecca Kaye

"Ah Poon said, ‘The monkey is your special animal, and you will grow up to be clever and wise like him.’"

The author of this fascinating memoir, whose father was Chinese and mother Australian, paints a rich tapestry of growing up in Shanghai, China, during World War II and throughout the Japanese invasion. After the war, China is still in turmoil as the Communist Party of Mao Zedong rises in power. Throughout all of these war-ravaged and politically-charged times, Kaye—who is already considered an “outsider” due to her Eurasian appearance and struggles with the Chinese language (her native tongue is English)—learns to live life with an acceptance of the harassment and near-daily inquisition of armed officers even as she simply ventures to school and back. “Mongrel,” she is sometimes called, referring to her mixed cultural heritage. Despite these difficulties, constant interrogation by armed Japanese officers, and times she and friends have to run for cover during wartime air raids, the young protagonist goes on to eventually find love and a steady career and is currently a much sought-after instructor of traditional Chinese ink painting onboard cruise ships.

Kaye has written a full and intriguing account of her early years in China and how her childhood was affected so greatly by both the War and the Japanese occupation in her beloved Shanghai. Along the way, we come to know her many relatives—both in Chinese inner-circles and outside, her close relationship with Noni—her younger sister and close confidant, and the strong role her mother played in her life. “She was a wonderful, loving mother and had given up everything for us children so we could have a healthy, free, and happy life,” Kaye writes. The author touchingly dedicates the book in part to her mother, who died less than seven years after bringing Kaye and her sisters to Australia, “back to her home city of Sydney—to democracy and to freedom.”

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