Last Boat Out of Shanghai

By Helen Zia,

Book cover of Last Boat Out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao's Revolution

Book description

The dramatic real life stories of four young people caught up in the mass exodus of Shanghai in the wake of China’s 1949 Communist revolution—a heartrending precursor to the struggles faced by emigrants today. 

“A true page-turner . . . [Helen] Zia has proven once again that history is something…

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Why read it?

3 authors picked Last Boat Out of Shanghai as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Helen Zia has penned four incredible tales of the tumultuous time, from the 1937 Japanese invasion of China to the change of power from Chiang-Kai Shek's Nationalist Party to Mao's Communist Party.  

This book is deeply personal for me, as my family fled Shanghai during this period to Taiwan and Hong Kong before coming to the US. I learned so much about the hardship that my family doesn't readily discuss. The well-detailed facts filled in the blanks in my own family's story. 

Helen reveals her own personal connection to the character Bing whose adoption was kept secret even from her…

Decadent Old Shanghai was never going to survive a Communist takeover. It wasn’t easy to leave—in her family, my mother was told she was the lucky one, and so was the mother of author Helen Zia. An accomplished journalist, Zia masterfully captures what it was like for four young people—including her mother—to make the wrenching decision to leave their homes for places unknown, the chaos and distress of boarding that fabled “last boat” out of Shanghai, and what came after. The core of the story unfolds through the authentic accounts of the main characters Benny, Annuo, Bing, and Ho. Additionally,…

From Claire's list on China’s greatest city Shanghai.

This is a spirited and emotionally resonant read that follows the lives of a group of Shanghai residents who grew up in the city before it fell under Communist Party control and then left it to start new lives in other parts of the world. Based on extended interviews, it is by a journalist who has done important work on people of Chinese descent in the United States, and as impressive as it is in bringing Old Shanghai to life, it is equally good at capturing elements of the time the people she profiles spent in other parts of the…

From Jeffrey's list on twentieth-century Shanghai.

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