Books by Eleanor McCallie Cooper

Liu family, 1945, Tientsin, China. Taken by Pvt. Giles Brooks.

Dragonfly Dreams

Dragonfly Dreams is based on a true story of a family that survived World War II in China under the Japanese occupation.

Ju Lan (nicknamed Nini), the oldest child, was photographed with her family by an American GI who found them at the war’s end. Her Chinese father had refused to cooperate with the Japanese. Her American mother barely escaped being sent to an internment camp for foreigners.

From this photo and a letter to her American cousin after the war, I began to imagine this story from Ju Lan’s perspective. View letter here.

Historical fiction for middle-grade readers, Dragonfly Dreams is complete at 45,000 words. I am currently looking for a publisher who will love this story and will want to get it in the hands of children and teachers all over the world. Most adults will also find a surprising insight into a past they know little about, one that parallels the Nazi occupation of Europe during the war.

Nini is about to celebrate her 10th birthday when Pearl Harbor happens. Early that morning she watches as Japanese troops march down the street in front of her family’s apartment, ending the only way of life she has ever known. Later she goes with her mother who is forced to register as an “enemy alien.” When Nini observes the British and American families being loaded onto buses and taken away, she tells her father. Without waiting to find out where the foreigners are being taken, her father plunges the family into hiding.

Because she is mixed race, Nini can pass as Chinese and go places her parents can’t go. But there is one thing she can’t do—and that is to continue her friendship with her Japanese friend Chiyoko. Desperate to stay in touch, she and Chiyoko devise a clever plan to leave messages for each other in a secret hiding place. Her friendship with Chiyoko saves the family when her little sister is ill with typhoid. Nini crosses the war-torn city alone to find her friend and get the help they need.

Four years after the war began, alone in an open field, Nini sees American planes flying overhead. She knows the long war has come to an end at last and runs home to tell her family.

by Eleanor McCallie Cooper & William Liu

An unfinished memoir. Inchoate tape recordings. Articles written inside China in the 1950-60s. It seemed impossible to put the pieces together, but when a box of saved letters was found—from the first letter after arriving in China to the last one the family received—everything came together.

I first heard about Grace Divine Liu when I was 21 and on my way to Japan to teach English. My Aunt Mary informed me that her cousin had married “a Chinaman” in the 1930s and had gone to China and never returned. For all she knew, Grace was either still living there or had died, Aunt Mary assumed, at the hands of the Communists. This was shocking news to me in 1968. Despite the fact that China was under Communist rule and closed at the time, I decided that someday I’d find Grace and write her story.

As it turned out—Grace found me. In 1974 after Nixon opened the doors, she returned with her son William. I met them as soon as I could, bringing along my hand-held cassette tape recorder. How laughable to think I’d get the whole story in one sitting. But what happened, instead, was something much more profound—I met someone who changed my life—a woman who had followed her heart, survived war and revolution, was arrested by the Red Guards, accused of being a counter-revolutionary, and returned to tell her story.

I lived with Grace and William in Berkeley the last year of Grace’s life as she battled cancer. Her two daughters, Nini and Ellen, came from China to help with her care. After Grace died, William and I put together her story, for the most part, in her own voice.

Grace in China was first published in 1999. Soho Press brought it out in 2003 as Grace: An American Woman in China, 1934-74. The Chinese translation was published in 2006.

"The extraordinary life of a courageous, outspoken American woman who survived forty years of upheaval in twentieth-century China . . . A unique perspective on a period of -critical transformations in China."

—Kirkus Reviews

"Reads like a riveting and complex novel. Set against the fascinating backdrop of China during the Cultural Revolution, it is the story of a strong woman who followed her heart against the odds."

—Lee Smith

The Last Girls

"GRACE IN CHINA reveals both a fascinating true love story of a Chinese-American marriage and a unique personal insight into Chinese-American history during the tumultuous years of 1934-1974. These years of violent change still influence the future of China and the United States and indeed the world. If you've watched the presidential debates, you know that China policy is one of the top issues, an issue which demands better understanding by leaders and citizens alike. This book can help, and what's more, it's a great read!"

Read the full review here...

—Elinor D. Benedict

Read more reviews on &

Photos of Grace, Nini & family.