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A Must Read Book About Hsiang-ya around 1926, July 15, 2012
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This review is from: Healing, Romance & Revolution: Letters from an American Nurse in 1926 China (Paperback)Luckily I found this book within 2 weeks of publication. I couldn't stop reading it.
Being a Yale-in-China history buff , I've read many books and references. This book is an excellent supplement to my knowledge. It related details about Harriet's life, work and observations in Hsiang-ya Hospital sponsored by Yale-in-China in Changsha between 1926-27, when the army in Canton initiated the North Expedition and began unifying China by fighting the Northern Warlords, resulting in great turmoil in China with Changsha central to this revolution and Harriet Holbrook Smith, a young American nurse right in the middle of events.
To those familiar with Chinese history from 1840 (the first Opium War), they understand why Nationalism in China reached its peak during 1926-27. Inevitably, life was interrupted. Many affiliated with the Yale-in-China Program believed they were helping China by being there,but did not understand China's history and people well and were very upset by events of the time.
It was hard to imagine a naïve young nurse from America, like Harriet, traveling to and working in a totally different country and culture, thousands of miles away from home (Seattle, WA) by herself. However, there she was living this fascinating experience and setting the stage for a lifetime of adventure and accomplishment.
This book expanded my knowledge considerably. Dwight Smith, Harold Smith, Charles Keller and C. Lester Walker, etc., were familiar to me, but, I didn't know they were connected to a Harriet Holbrook Smith as relatives, friends and lovers. Or, Hilda Yen, daughter of Dr. Fuqing Yen (or Fu-Chun Yen, co-founder of Hsiang-ya hospital) and one of three famous Chinese women aviators of the 1930-40s was a Harriet favorite, and what impact Harriet had on people like Dr. Louise Farnam and Dr. Ching and many others.
By reading "Doctors East and Doctors West" by Dr. Edward Hume, founder of Hsiang-ya Hospital, "Hsiang-ya Journal" by Ruth Greene, covering a similar time as "Healing, Romance and Revolution." , then add "The Dragon Will Survive" by Marjorie Tooker Whittlesey that addresses Hsiang-ya from 1939 - 1944, you will have a comprehensive picture of Hsiang-ya from 1911- 1944.
"Healing, Romance and Revolution" chronicles Yale-in-China through 1926, from Harriet's keen observations as she performs professionally as a nurse/superintendent; deals with matters of the heart; and, faces unions and students in the revolution of unifying China, to a hospital and school shutdown, which at the time, nobody knew whether it was temporary or permanent. Fortunately, Hsiang-ya resumed operations quickly and was even more effective after 1928. Now, Yali Middle School and Hsiang-ya Hospital are among the finest institutions in China and keep connections with Yale-China Association.
I strongly recommend this book to readers who enjoy Chinese history and a good personal story, or just a good adventure story, and I am looking forward to her diary between 1921 and 1925 which I hear will be released soon.
Gwen: ★★★★★ This is a great read, especially for anyone interested in China, nursing, or adventure. A young nurse goes to China in the 1920's and writes letters home about her adventures. These letters provide insight into the turbulent times in China seen from the perspective of a young nurse who also enjoys an active social life. Interesting reading!
Roberta ★★★★: What a delight to read and enjoy the vernacular of the 1920's, as written by Harriet in her letters home to family and friends. She is a unique woman, especially for her era, as she is independent, bright, strong-minded and very likable. What a role model for women of any era! As a dedicated nurse serving in China during the time of political unrest and revolution, Harriet's "matter of fact" descriptions relating to the inconveniences caused by the war, speaks to her fearless attitude and zest for life. This is a read that enlightens and puts a smile on your face.
Carolyn ★★★★: It was interesting to read the personal letters of a young woman living and working in China in 1926. Her letters to her mother and some friends reveal a spunky, confident and adventurous young woman in a time frame not noted for these feminine attributes. It was also interesting to be reminded of the rigors of travel and communication not only of turn of the century life, but also of life in Revolutionary China.
Judy ★★★★: Going to China has never been a priority. Living in the 1920s has been a fantasy. Putting the two together, I'm hard pressed to think I would have given up the comforts of Seattle for the rigors of rural China, but reading Hat's letters takes me there.
What an adventurous woman she was! Obviously well connected and more than capable, she sets her nurses cap and journeys off to China, where she finds herself in the middle of a revolution. With each page, I wished I had had the opportunity to know her, to ask so many questions. Her experiences are unique and I'm thrilled that there is a way to share them with her by reading her letters "home".
Karin: The book sparked much discussion within our family. What a grand tool for raising awareness and pride in family history.
Matt: I want five books to share with co-workers.
Kathy: Bought 'Healing,Romance & Revolution,' started reading it and literally could not put it down. I knew Harriet since childhood, yet was amazed to discover the true depth of her experience in China and Changsha and the challenges she faced and the inner strength she mustard up in the face of many challenges and revolution, especially in the last few months as the radical unions and armies cause mayhem in and around the hospital and school.
What a treat!
John: For a while I got a little lost in trying to remember the players with whom Harriet was involved, Once I let go of that and read the book for the bigger picture, things started to move quickly. I enjoy how she wove the daily routine in with the healing, romance and revolution aspects of her life. In a given letter she tells of her import/export "business," a dinner party she attended; adventures with Charlie or Les (romance); and, treating soldiers from the warring factions.
Jane: This is a great story. Who's going to play Harriet in the movie?
Russell: This book could encourage young people to get off their computer games, follow their dreams have real adventure and impact their world. Additionally, I really enjoyed Harriet's positive nature and wry sense of humor.
Burt: Harriet demonstrates a largely lost skill . . . yes, the lost art of writing. Unfortunately, with emails, text messaging, etc. it is so easy to "knock" something out. What fun to read well thought-out correspondence. Also, enjoyed her quaint expressions. Never had heard the word "tiffin" (Look it up). How did she do it while she was so involved with all her professional responsibilities, social life, and so much more. Did she actually, ever sleep?
Response from Dennis: Yup! Every once in a while!