My grandfather Thomas was a direct participant in government opposition during the White Terror period– as a result, his life, family, and career in Taiwan was endangered. I am working on a book to the tell the full story of Thomas’s life and career, and how it affected the life of his youngest son, my father Richard, and the rest of the Liao family that came to America.
My book, In Search of Formosa, will explore how the lives of my grandparents and their life in Taiwan shaped our family, who has spent the last fifty years speaking of my grandfather Thomas in hushed tones, so as not to upset my grandmother Anna.
As an Asian-American growing up with mixed race and only a sketchy knowledge of my family’s Taiwanese background, I felt like half of my identity had been lost in the silence of our family. After my Grandma Anna’s death, I finally began the search for the truth about the past, no longer afraid of hurting her. But my quest for information began with trepidation, since I was still afraid of unearthing painful memories for my father, aunts and uncles. As I have talked to more and more relatives, however, my confidence has grown that telling our family’s story is necessary, both for me to understand my identity and to heal the wounds that generations of painful silence created.
And finally, the story of my grandparents that I am uncovering is an amazing tale of survival, love, adventure, and betrayal. I wrote the early parts of this story as my MFA Thesis at Emerson College, and the research in America that I have done over the past 3 years has enabled me to journey to Taiwan to fill in the last missing pieces of my grandparents’ lives. I have received a Fulbright Research Grant to support this trip, which will consist of living in Taipei, studying the Chinese language, and researching recent Taiwanese history at the National Chengchi University.
In my book In Search of Formosa, I will use over five years of research to reconstruct the lives of my grandparents Thomas and Anna Liao and document the search to tell the untold, willfully forgotten stories of their lives. The book pieces together three generations of half-Chinese Americans– my grandmother, my father, and me– growing up in America and traveling to Taiwan to find a piece of ourselves that we didn’t know existed. Like my father and my grandmother before me, I go to Formosa with an open mind, and open heart, and a quest for adventure!
The book is obviously still a work in progress, but I have a Book Proposal available for the perusal of interested agents and editors. Please contact me with your interest or questions about the project. Also, feel free to check out “The Girl” page for information about me and my publications.