The Freedom Swimmers: Background information when reading The Silence that Binds Us

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The Silence that Binds Us

by Joanna Ho

The Silence that Binds Us by Joanna Ho X
The Silence that Binds Us by Joanna Ho
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  • Published:
    Jun 2022, 448 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
David Bahia
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About this Book

The Freedom Swimmers

This article relates to The Silence that Binds Us

May Chen, the main character in Joanna Ho's The Silence That Binds Us, explores her identity through her family heritage, including the experiences of her paternal grandmother, who arrived in Hong Kong as a young refugee from mainland China. Faced with formidable hardships during the Cultural Revolution, she left everything behind and swam across four miles of shark-infested waters in the dead of night. While itself fictional, this description reflects the historical reality of about one million Chinese refugees who risked their lives to make similar crossings into Hong Kong between the 1950s and 1980s.

Dapeng Bay (aka "Mirs Bay"), where May's grandmother crossed, was one of three established escape routes to Hong Kong. The alternatives to crossing Dapeng Bay from the east were to sneak through the land border from the north or to swim across Shenzhen Bay (aka "Deep Bay") from the west. Each option bore its own perils. Dapeng Bay, while absent of border patrols, could take more than...

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