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Random House Publishing Group, Fall 2018

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Last Boat Out of Shanghai
The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao's Revolution
By (author): Helen Zia
9780345522320 Hardcover English General Trade HISTORY / Asia / China Jan 22, 2019
$37.00 CAD
Active 6.35 x 9.53 x 1.68 in 544 pages 35 B&W PHOTOS THROUGHOUT Ballantine Ballantine Books
The dramatic, real-life stories of four young people caught up in the mass exodus of Shanghai in the wake of China’s 1949 Communist Revolution—a precursor to the struggles faced by emigrants today.

Shanghai has historically been China’s jewel, its richest, most modern city. The bustling metropolis was home to sophisticated intellectuals, entrepreneurs, and a thriving middle class when Mao’s proletarian revolution emerged victorious from the long civil war. Terrified of the horrors the Communists would wreak upon their lives, citizens of Shanghai who could afford to fled in every direction. Seventy years later, the last generation to fully recall this massive exodus have opened the story to Chinese American journalist Helen Zia, who interviewed hundreds of exiles about their journey through one of the most tumultuous events of the twentieth century. From these moving accounts, Zia weaves the story of four young Shanghai residents who wrestled with the decision to abandon everything as refugees in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the U.S.

Young Benny, who became the unwilling heir to his father’s dark wartime legacy, must choose between escaping Hong Kong or navigating the intricacies of Communist China. The resolute Annuo, forced to flee her home with her father, a defeated Nationalist official, becomes an unwelcome exile in Taiwan. The financially strapped Ho fights deportation in order to continue his studies in the U.S. while his family struggles at home. And Bing, given away by her poor parents, faces the prospect of a new life among strangers in America. Echoing the heroism of many other refugees from catastrophic events, the lives of these men and women reveal the dignity and triumph of personal survival.

As the daughter of immigrants from China, Zia is uniquely equipped to explain how crises like the Shanghai transition affect children and their families, students and their futures, and, ultimately, the way we see ourselves and those around us. Last Boat Out of Shanghai brings a poignant human angle to the experiences of refugees then and, by extension, today.

Story Locale: Shanghai, San Francisco, New York City, Taiwan, Hong Kong

Publication coincides with the 70TH ANNIVERSARY of the Communist Revolution.

THE FIRST BOOK IN ENGLISH TO DESCRIBE THE MASSIVE EMIGRATION FROM SHANGHAI by many of the country’s most educated and skilled talents.

WELL-CONNECTED AUTHOR: Former executive editor of Ms. Magazine, Zia is well known in the Asian American community and academic circles.

TWO OF THE FOUR MAIN CHARACTERS EMIGRATE DIRECTLY TO THE U.S.: Their unwelcome reception here during the Cold War makes for engaging reading.

RELEVANT TO TODAY: Even though this exodus from Shanghai occurred seventy years ago, it shares remarkable similarities to the massive refugee crises of today.

ZIA HAS SPENT A DOZEN YEARS PREPARING THIS BOOK, interviewing over 100 former Shanghai residents and conducting exhaustive research as a Fulbright scholar.

Helen Zia is the author of Asian American Dreams, a finalist for the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize (Bill Clinton referred to the book in two Rose Garden speeches), and the co-author, with Wen Ho Lee, of My Country Versus Me. A former executive editor of Ms. magazine and a Fulbright Scholar, Zia first visited China in 1972, just after President Nixon’s historic trip. A graduate of Princeton University, she holds an honorary doctor of laws degree from the City University of New York and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Author Residence: Oakland, CA

Author Hometown: Newark, NJ

Marketing: Pre-pub consumer outreach and review push

Online marketing outreach

Social media campaign

Targeted email marketing

Random House e-newsletters and websites

Major book club outreach



Publicity: National/local review and feature print attention

National/local radio attention

Online review and feature attention

NPR campaign

“I have long been an admirer of Helen Zia’s writing and scholarship, but Last Boat Out of Shanghai is at a whole new level. It’s a true page-turner. Zia has proven once again that history is something that happens to real people. I stayed up late reading night after night, because I wanted to know what would happen to Benny, Ho, Bing, Annuo, and their friends and families.”—Lisa See, author of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

“Zia’s portraits are compassionate and heartbreaking, and they are, ultimately, the universal story of many families who leave their homeland as refugees and find less-than-welcoming circumstances on the other side. I read with a personal hunger to know the political and personal exigencies that led to those now-or-never decisions, for they mirror the story of my own mother, who also left on virtually the last boat out of Shanghai.”—Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club

“Beautifully crafted, carefully researched … Last Boat Out of Shanghai is an engaging work of high-quality popular history. It has things to offer not just to general readers with little knowledge about the city’s intriguing past, but even to specialists…. Ms. Zia lets us eavesdrop on the conversations in ‘hushed voices’ of several people whose childhoods are brought vividly to life…. Last Boat Out of Shanghai is so good I’ll certainly need to add it to the syllabus for my class. That means something else will have to go—or my students will simply have four hundred more pages of fascinating reading.”—Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, The Wall Street Journal

“The dramatic story of four young people who were among the thousands fleeing China after 1949’s Communist revolution. Eye-opening.”People

“A deftly woven, deeply moving chronicle of the extraordinary ordeals of four ordinary Chinese in a world torn by war and fractured by ideology… a fascinating read as an intimate family memoir, as well as a missing chapter of modern history finally coming to light … What makes the Shanghai story unique…is that we didn’t really know the story. Except in some films and novels that make passing references to this episode of Chinese history—often as a nostalgic backdrop, equivalent to a crowd scene in cinematic terms—the real human cost of the massive exodus has remained a mystery. Official records, if any, are suppressed, and research in this area has been sketchy. In this sense, Helen Zia’s new book, Last Boat Out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao’s Revolution …fills a gap in our collective memory.”San Francisco Chronicle

 “Blending the personal with pivotal world history, Zia succeeds in creating a universal, timeless story…. Gathered, analyzed, and distilled with insight and meticulous documentation, Zia’s book gives voice to a history almost lost.”The Christian Science Monitor

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