Review Blog

Aug 31 2016

Freedom swimmer by Wai Chim

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Allen & Unwin, 2016. ISBN 9781760113414
(Age: Lower secondary - Adult) This is an absorbing tale, based on the life of the author's father, himself a freedom swimmer who eventually entered the USA as a refugee.
All ages will appreciate this story of Ming, a shy teenager, reviled by other villagers in the China of Mao Tse-tung because his father was considered a traitor. Ming's father had been shot while trying to escape the life of starvation and poverty common during the period called Three Years of National Disasters.
He befriends, Fei, a young girl whose circumstances are equally desperate.
When teenage members of the Red Army are relocated from the city to the village in 1968, Ming gets to know one of them, Li, and despite the differences between them, they spend time in each other's company and Ming teaches Li how to swim.
It is a time of expected devotion to the teaching of Mao and those who are considered to be less devout to Mao's cause can be denounced and punished. When Li's father is branded a traitor, Li himself comes under suspicion and is persecuted. He decides he must escape and he and Ming plan to elude the guards and begin the dangerous swim through the shark infested waters to Hong Kong.
The strength of friendship amongst Ming, Fei, Li and also Tien, is a heart warming feature of this story and helps to balance the horror and trauma experienced by many at this time in Chinese history. This is a story which needed to be told and needs to be read.
Thelma Harvey

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