Books by Eleanor McCallie Cooper
by Eleanor McCallie Cooper & William Liu
"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
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 voice, using her memoir, articles she wrote in the 1950-60s, and her incredible letters from the first day she arrived in China.
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.
Dragonfly Dreams is based on the Liu’s family experience during 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. Like Anne Frank, Nini (age 10-13) narrates the story of her family’s ability to survive the ordeal.
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, Dragonfly Dreams is complete at 45,000 words. I am currently looking for a publisher who will get this story in the hands of readers all over the world. Like To Kill a Mockingbird, Dragonfly Dreams will appeal to both young readers and adults not only because of the courageous young heroine but also because of the revelations of injustice in a history we know little about.