Arrivals and Departures

After finishing their graduate studies, my parents moved from New Jersey back to Taiwan where they expected to settle down permanently. I was born soon after they returned. But one pivotal event -- the expulsion of an American missionary couple who were close friends of my parents, and the political tensions that followed -- forced us to leave Taiwan. My parents lived abroad for more than 20 years before they felt safe enough to go home -- but it was too late for me. I grew up American. 


"After expressing political views that were critical of Taiwan’s Nationalist government and striking up a friendship with Peng Ming-min, a well-known dissident, the Thornberrys were swiftly deported back to the States. My parents worried they would be next; although they were not politically outspoken, they feared guilt by association. My mom explained that the Kuomintang had spies everywhere that reported on what you did and who your friends were. They even opened and read private mail, so my parents took care never to say anything controversial in their correspondence. Taiwan was under martial law, which meant the government had extraordinary powers to detain or harass people without cause. Sensing they were under government surveillance, my parents eventually felt pressured to leave. They have always been reluctant to discuss this episode, but my brother was old enough to remember it. He said we left secretly, in the middle of the night."