Taiwan's White Terror from the Vantage of Fiction: A Reading and Discussion


Oksenberg Room, 3rd Floor

Encina Hall

616 Serrra St.

  • Shawna Yang Ryan

Shawna Yang Ryan

Green Island: A Novel

A stunning story of love, betrayal, and family set against the backdrop of a changing Taiwan over the course of the 20th century. 

February 28, 1947: Trapped inside the family home amid an uprising that has rocked Taipei, Dr. Tsai delivers his youngest daughter, the unnamed narrator of Green Island, just after midnight as the city is plunged into martial law. In the following weeks, as the Chinese Nationalists act to crush the opposition, Dr. Tsai becomes one of the many thousands of people dragged away from their families and thrown into prison. His return, after more than a decade, is marked by alienation from his loved ones and paranoia among his community - conflicts that loom over the growing bond he forms with his youngest daughter. Years later, this troubled past follows her to the United States, 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. 

As the novel sweeps across six decades and two continents, the life of the narrator shadows the course of Taiwan's history from the end of Japanese colonial rule to the decades under martial law and, finally, to Taiwan's transformation into a democracy. But, above all, Green Island is a lush and lyrical story of a family and a nation grappling with the nuances of complicity and survival, raising the question: How far would you be willing to go for the ones you love?

About the Author
Shawna Yang Ryan teaches fiction in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She is the author of Water Ghosts and Green Island, a novel set during Taiwan's White Terror. In 2015, she was the recipient of the Elliot Cades Emerging Writer Award, Hawaii's highest literary honor.