The Strength of Water
— An Asian American Coming of Age Memoir
by Karin K. Jensen
Water is fluid, soft, yielding. But water will wear away rock…what is soft is strong. — Lao Tzu
In 1920s Detroit, King Ying stands on a box to iron clothes in her parent’s laundry business and endures taunts of Ching-Ching Chinaman on the playground. She dreams of a home and the elegance of her Jane Arden paper dolls. But when her father incurs steep debts during the Great Depression, he sends her far from hope to live in his ancestral village.
In remote Tai Ting Pong in the Guangdong province of China, King Ying feels as foreign in the land of her heritage as she did in the country of her birth. There, she must survive hunger, deadly superstition, and Japanese invasion. When a guardian angel helps her return to California, it’s a chance to seize her American dream … if she can overcome mid-20th century racism, those who prey on the economically vulnerable, and her family’s expectations about marriage.
In this debut memoir, Karin K. Jensen records her mother’s transpacific quest for identity, survival, and new world dreams. The Strength of Water is a work of Asian American history revealed through one’s family’s experiences.
“The Strength of Water is a heartening read about an immigrant daughter’s odyssey. Through her mother’s stories and family oral histories, Karin Jensen successfully provides us with a moving glimpse of Chinese American life in the last century, revealing the humanity of immigrant laborers, how they lived, and what they felt.” — Harvey Dong, Lecturer, Asian American & Asian Diaspora Studies, UC Berkeley
“Some stories cry out to be told. Karin Jensen’s debut memoir, The Strength of Water, is such a story. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the sociology of early twentieth-century China or the experience of Chinese immigrants. Ms. Jensen tells her mother’s story with clarity, wit, and a deft touch for the unvarnished truth.” — Tani Hanes, author of Obachan: A Young Girl’s Struggle for Freedom in 20th-Century Japan
“One woman’s epic odyssey, one family’s story of striving in a foreign country, one generation’s unique memory. An amazing memoir where the “strength of water,” the power of resilience and adapting to any circumstance, is the common thread that flows throughout the whole family, connecting everyone’s lives. Touching, inspiring, and brilliantly written.” — Shen Yang, author of More Than One Child
“Karin Jensen has wonderfully captured history and culture along with the incredible stories of her Chinese American mother, who indeed lived a big life, persevering through astonishing hardships, discrimination, and difficult family relationships to finally find golden times.” — Linda Austin, co-author of the WWII memoir Cherry Blossoms in Twilight
Publication date: 8 March 2023
Format: Paperback (Demy octavo) 216mm x 138mm
Pages: 312 pp, with 11 photos