The Boy from Clearwater: Book 1

Yu Pei-Yun; illustrated by Zhou Jian-Xin; translated by Lin King
(Levine Querido)
  • Non-fiction
  • Set in Taiwan

Key words: Contemporary, biography, human rights, translation

Taiwan, 1930s.

Tsai Kun-lin, an ordinary boy, was born in Qingshui. He grew up happily sneaking into the sugar cane fields reciting nursery rhymes he couldn’t understand, despite Japanese occupation looming over him. As war emerges, Tsai’s memories shift to military parades, air raids, and watching others face conscription into the army. After the war comes a new era under the rule of the Chinese National Party, and the book-loving teenager tries hard to learn Mandarin and be a good son. He believes he is finally stepping towards a comfortable future, but little does he know, a dark cloud awaits him ahead.

Taiwan, 1950s.

In his second year at Taichung First Senior High School, Tsai had attended a book club hosted by his teacher. This comes back to haunt him when he is consequently arrested on a charge of taking part in an “illegal” assembly. After being tortured into a false confession, he is sentenced to ten years in prison and eventually sent to Green Island for “reformation.” Lasting until his release in September 1960, Tsai, a victim of the White Terror era, spent ten years of his youth in prison, experiencing unspeakable horrors as well as unimaginable kindnesses. But he is now ready to embrace freedom.

For fans of Persepolis and March comes an incredible true story that lays bare the tortured and triumphant history of Taiwan, an island claimed and fought over by many countries, through the life story of a man who lived through its most turbulent times.