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Eleanor McCallie Cooper is drawn by her deep roots in the South to write stories that have been hidden or forgotten. She captures stories of family members on the edge of traumatic historical events that portend personal change and social turmoil.

Grace: An American Woman’s Forty Years in China, 1934-74, co-authored with William Liu, is the non-fiction account of her aunt who married “a Chinaman” during the Depression and lived in China from the Japanese occupation of World War II through Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Dragonfly Dreams is her debut novel, set in China during WWII, written for young readers.

Eleanor lived in Japan for two years and has traveled in Korea, China, India, the Middle East, and Europe.

She lived in New York and San Francisco before returning to her home town of Chattanooga, Tennessee, where she now lives with her husband and family.

DRAGONFLY DREAMS Cover
BOOK REVIEW

DRAGONFLY DREAMS

BY • POSTED ON Aug. 31, 2021

In this debut YA historical novel, a Chinese American girl and her family must go into hiding following the Japanese invasion of China.

Although she’s always called Nini, the 10-year-old narrator of this story has two given names, Julia and Ju-Lian, reflecting her dual heritage. Her Da is Chinese and her Ma, American. Nini Liu and her family live in a northern port city in China that has several self-contained European districts, which were at first left alone after the 1937 Japanese invasion. But in 1941, as the tale begins, the Japanese occupy Nini’s city. All foreigners, including Ma, are considered enemy aliens and must register. Da loses his job and apartment, so the family takes shelter with an older friend. Now separated, Nini and her best friend, Chiyoko, find a place to leave each other messages, but reaching it is dangerous. When buses start taking foreigners away, Nini and her family flee to a small, isolated house outside the city, where they face many privations. Nini must make a daring trip into the city to get treatment for her ailing sister, just one of many tests of her courage, determination, and, most of all—by 1945, as the story ends—her hope for the future. Cooper bases her engrossing novel on family history, giving the tale the ring of truth. Despite the dramatic historical events and the family’s suffering, the story avoids histrionics. Nini’s point of view is sensitively rendered, capturing her confusion and worry and making the tale’s impact more powerful. The book also offers compelling reflections on foreignness and racism; a sign at the entrance of Victoria Park in the British district of Nini’s Chinese city reads “NO DOGS OR CHINESE ALLOWED.”

An authentic, engaging, and thought-provoking family tale with an admirably resourceful hero.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64663-423-1

Page count: 184pp

Publisher: Koehler Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2021