The 228 Legacyby Jennifer J. Chow
Published on July 25th 2013
Three generations in an all-female Taiwanese family living near Los Angeles in 1980 are each guarding personal secrets. Grandmother Silk finds out that she has breast cancer, as daughter Lisa loses her job, while pre-teen granddaughter Abbey struggles with a school bully. When Silkâ€™s mysterious past comes outâ€”revealing a shocking historical event that left her widowedâ€”the truth forces the family to reconnect emotionally and battle their problems together. A novel of cultural identity and long-standing secrets, The 228 Legacy weaves together multigenerational viewpoints, showing how heritage and history can influence individual behavior and family bonds.
I didn’t know anything about Taiwanese history until I read this post from Shenwei about the 228 Massacre.Â After World War II Japan ceded control of Taiwan to China.Â The government that was put in place on the island was hated for corruption.Â There were protests on February 28, 1947 that led to a violent crackdown from the government.Â Thousands of people died.Â It was not officially acknowledged or discussed until 1995.
Shenwei gave a list of books in her post that touch on the massacre.Â I decided to read The 228 Legacy.
This book is about three generations of Taiwanese-American women living in LA in the 1980s.Â The grandmother, Silk, came to the U.S. as a pregnant widow.Â She has never talked much about her life in Taiwan other than trying to pass on the language.Â Her daughter, Lisa, knows nothing about her father.Â She is struggling with keeping dead end jobs while caring for her mother and daughter.Â The granddaughter, Abbey, is trying to make friends with the popular people at school but this has disastrous consequences.
The heart of the story is Jack, a Chinese man who recently lost his wife.Â He lived at the nursing home that Lisa worked at.Â He recently ran away.Â Lisa gets involved in his life but when Silk meets him she reacts violently to having a Chinese man in her house.Â This is the beginning of finding out about Silk’s memories of the massacre.
I wish this book went deeper.Â There are several good storylines here but I didn’t feel like it did more than scratch the surface of each.Â There should have been more emotion in both Silk and Abbey’s stories.Â Both are traumatic but they feel like they are recounted matter of factly.
I liked Lisa’s story the best because it showed her growth as she discovers a career that she actually enjoys.
I may look into some other books on Shenwei’s list to learn more about Taiwanese history than I learned from this book.
I’d definitely recommend Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan if you want a book that goes deeper with the history and the characters. 🙂