Posted in China, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Multi-Cultural Fiction, World War II, Young Adult

Wings of a Flying Tiger by Iris Yang

Publication Date: May 2018 by Open Books

Summary: Jasmine Bai, a university student, leaves the relative security of her uncle’s house in Chungking to find her parents in Nanking. It is 1937 and the Japanese are reported near the Republic of China’s capital. Having already ravaged Peking and Shanghai, the Japanese army is headed to Nanking. Jasmine fears for the safety of her parents, both esteemed educators. Her father, Professor Bai, with his fluency in Japanese, is confident that he could help communicate with the invaders and protect the university.Wings of a Flying Tiger

When Jasmine arrives at her parents’ home, it is too late. Her parents are dead, and Nanking is in complete chaos. She takes refuge in a safety zone, a church, directed by Father John, a priest from the United States. But safety zones mean little to the Japanese and she is forced to flee again…and again. The Japanese are constantly looking for soldiers in hiding and “prostitutes”—basically any very pretty, young woman. The first they kill; the second they capture and rape.

Father John arranges for a disguise for Jasmine and gets her out of the city. It is believed to be safer in the countryside. But when an American airman, a Flying Tiger, crashes near the remote village where she is staying, the Japanese are determined to find him—and will destroy anyone they believe to be even remotely involved in his survival.

Comments: Wings of a Flying Tiger is much more than Jasmine’s story. Told with a direct, sympathetic style, it is an agonizing depiction of the Japanese atrocities in China during World War II. Personally, I never knew much about this part of the war. My childhood studies focused on the United States’ war with Japan, but barely mentioned China. I am grateful to the author for educating me about this period of China’s history. The horrors tore at my soul, now more than 80 years distanced. It is good to never forget what human beings can do to each other in war.

The author was born and raised in China and drew from her parents’ and grandmother’s experiences in the war. An interview with the author can be found here.

Highly recommended.  This book is suitable for adults and older young adults.


Posted in Literary Fiction, Magical Realism, Young Adult

The Swan Keeper by Milana Marsenich

Summary: Lilly Connelly can’t wait to turn eleven years old. Eleven is a magical year in the Connelly family. Eleven is imagination and limitless potential. Being eleven is like standing on the top of a mountain, wind in your face, arms outstretched and knowing that with just a bit of magic you could fly.

Lilly lives with her parents and fourteen-year-old sister, Anna, in the mountains of rural Montana. Her photographer father, Sam, drinks a bit too much and looks at the world through his camera. Her mother, Nell, tells Lilly fanciful fables that feed her imagination. Anna spends her days dreaming of marrying her boyfriend.

From her mother’s stories and her own nearly white hair, Lilly fantasizes that she is a soulmate to the trumpeter swans. In her mind, they speak to her. The graceful migratory birds come to the Montana mountains each year to nest and hatch their young. Hunted for their beautiful white feathers, meat and skins, the trumpeter swans are endangered. Lilly and her father witnessed the senseless slaughter of one of their young the previous year. Sam is sure he knows the identity of the swan killer.

In 1929, on the day Lilly turns eleven, the family rides their bikes out to the marsh to see the trumpeter swans. Lilly climbs a tree to get a better view. She sees Anna wandering off in the meadow flowers. She sees her parents smiling, watching the swans, taking photographs. Then she sees a man in a dark green coat shatter her world with a shotgun blast.

Comments: The imagery in The Swan Keeper is very powerful.  It is swirl of white—the cold, the snow, Lilly’s hair, the swans, angels, dreams… The white and cold crept into my bones. But the coldest of all is the man in the dark green coat.

This is the kind of book to read by a fire, under a blanket with a cup of something hot to drink. But I think it would not be the kind of book to read in a cabin in the winter forest, alone with nothing but the sounds of the night with my mind listening for the crunching of boots in the snow outside my window.

Themes in The Swan Keeper span generations. I recommend this book for 12 and up.

I received this book to review from the Open Books book reviewer program, BookGlow.

I give this one 5 books.

5 out of 5 books