In Taiwan’s lush landscape, Jessica J. Lee found a deeper understanding of her family’s turbulent history

The visit to her mother’s homeland helped Lee understand her own place in the world

Date: Dec 24, 2020
By: Pauline Holdsworth

Jessica J. Lee’s book Two Trees Make a Forest intertwines nature writing and memoir, rooted in the forests and flatlands of Taiwan. (Hamish Hamilton, Paul Capewell)

The Sunday Edition27:16Jessica J. Lee shares her family's turbulent history in Taiwan's lush landscape

* This story was originally published on September 18, 2020

Jessica J. Lee grew up in Ontario — a world away from the volcanoes, mangrove forests and mountain peaks of her mother's homeland, Taiwan.

Her grandparents fled to Taiwan during the Chinese civil war, and then immigrated to Canada with her mother in the 1970s. They didn't speak much about their complicated pasts, and Lee grew up thinking of Taiwan as a mythical place. 

But after her grandfather's death, she started visiting the island — trying to understand the landscape that had shaped her family, and in turn, shapes her.

Why Jessica J. Lee sees swimming as a catalyst for emotional change and acceptance of fear

"I'm trained as an environmental historian, and I realized that the language gap for me wasn't about Mandarin, necessarily, and it wasn't about filling all the gaps in my grandparents' stories. It was about finding the thing we have in common, and that was this connection to place," she told The Sunday Magazine's host Piya Chattopadhyay.    [FULL  STORY]

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