Format Hardcover
Publication Date 09/06/22
ISBN 9781639362684
Trim Size / Pages 6 x 9 in / 356

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The Interpreter's Daughter

A Family Memoir

Teresa Lim

A beautiful, sweeping, multigenerational narrative that spans from nineteenth century south China to modern day Singapore.

I would learn that when families tell stories, what they leave out re-defines what they keep in. With my family, these were not secrets intentionally withheld. Just truths too painful to confront.

In the last years of her life, Teresa Lim's mother, Violet Chang, had copies of a cherished family photograph made for those in the portrait who were still alive. The photo is mounted on cream card with the name of the studio stamped at the bottom in Chinese characters.

The place and date on the back: Hong Kong, 1935.

Teresa would often look at this photograph, enticed by the fierceness and beauty of her great-aunt Fanny looking back at her. But Fanny never seemed to feature in the family stories that were always being told and retold. Why? she wondered.

This photograph set Teresa on a journey to uncover her family's remarkable history. Through detective work, serendipity, and the kindness of strangers, she was guided to the fascinating, ordinary, yet extraordinary life of her great-aunt and her world of sworn spinsters, ghost husbands and the working-class feminists of nineteenth century south China. But to recover her great-aunt's past, we first must get to know Fanny's family, the times and circumstances in which they lived, and the momentous yet forgotten conflicts that would lead to war in Singapore and, ultimately, a long-buried family tragedy.

The Interpreter's Daughter is a beautifully moving record of an extraordinary family history. For fans of Wild Swans, The Hare With Amber Eyes, and Falling Leaves, The Interpreter's Daughter is a classic in the making.

Teresa Lim grew up in Singapore but has lived in London since 1992. She read Economics and Sociology with Anthropology at the University of Singapore before working as a business journalist and in finance for many years. After moving to the UK she wrote a fortnightly column on life in London for The Straits Times, Singapore. Teresa lives in south London and Devon with her husband. They have two grown-up sons. The Interpreter's Daughter is her first book.

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Endorsements & Reviews

"The Interpreter’s Daughter is a rich history of both Singapore and the Law family, her mother’s lineage tracing its first known ancestors back to central China...It’s apparent that Lim has spent a great deal of time researching her family’s history, and she writes about it seamlessly, as if telling the story to a friend." Asian Review of Books
"Teresa Lim never knew her great aunt Fanny, whose face she’d seen in a photo but whose story was never told. Lim made it her mission to investigate Fanny and in so doing, has written this powerful story of family, feminists, tragedy and truth." Ms. Magazine
"In this ambitious memoir, journalist Lim interrogates her family’s history, decoding the truth and reckoning with an overlooked past. Spanning from late-nineteenth-century South China to present-day London, Lim's account covers indentured servitude under British colonialism, opium addiction and the Great Depression, and war between Japan and China. Lim pays close attention to her greatgrandfather and to her great-aunt, who lived in an era when women were denied an education and were either married, mistresses, or sex workers. She also considers the role suicide played in her family and the culture at-large. Enriched with family photographs, this family portrait will engage readers who enjoy such complex histories, such as Ancestor Trouble. (2022)" Booklist
"The Interpreter's Daughter is a captivating, multigenerational memoir. There is much to think about in this compelling story of history, family loyalty, and personal sacrifice, set in a pivotal time in the history of Southeast Asia. Teresa Lim’s quest to uncover a hidden chapter in her family’s history makes for a fascinating and richly textured, multigenerational tale. The Interpreter's Daughter is a reminder that all history is personal."

Charmaine Wilkerson, NYT bestselling author of Black Cake
"Journalist Lim debuts with a captivating family history focused on her great-aunt, Fanny Law...Lim vividly recreates Singapore in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and lucidly explains historical matters (the 1927 Shanghai massacre) and cultural traditions (spirit tablets). Fans of Lisa See’s On Gold Mountain ought to take a look." Publishers Weekly
"Teresa Lim probes family silences surrounding her beautiful and mysterious great-aunt. Rich in the little-discussed history of Singaporean Chinese, this multigenerational memoir offers a timeless tale of the quest for identity, wholeness and truth. An eloquently enlightening family history." Kirkus Reviews
"Teresa Lim’s memoir The Interpreter’s Daughter reveals hidden family secrets amid accounts of love, loss, migration,
and memory. Based on extensive genealogical and historical research, The Interpreter’s Daughter weaves historical notes from China, Singapore, and the British Empire together with stories from Lim’s family. The Interpreter’s Daughter is an expansive memoir about family, migration, and the delicate nature of remembrance." Forward Reviews