April 10, 2014

Local author details America’s role in China during WWII

By Sarah Platanitis

AGAWAM – The Agawam Public Library hosted an Author Talk with Dr. Andrew Lam recently.

An award-winning and best-selling writer from Longmeadow, Lam discussed his new book, Two Sons of China, and spoke about the history of America’s role in China during World War II.

“The European and Pacific theaters of the war were more consequential from an American viewpoint, but all Americans should know that thousands of Americans served in China during the war, and that the China theater served an important role in the Allied victory. Remember, hundreds of thousands of Japanese soldiers were occupying China, men who would otherwise have been fighting Americans in the Pacific,” said Lam.

Two Sons of China is a sweeping historical saga from a forgotten theater of World War II.

It was released by Bondfire Books this past December on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day.

The story was inspired by the little-known, real-life Dixie Mission of 1944, in which Americans ventured north to Mao Zedong’s northern stronghold of Yenan to investigate reports that the Chinese Communists were effectively fighting the Japanese.

“The Dixie Mission is fascinating because it represents America’s first and best chance to evaluate and interact with the people who would later become the rulers of China,” said Lam.

The American soldiers on the mission were also there to consider if it would be worthwhile to arm Mao’s troops with U.S. weapons.

“The Mission is worth remembering because of the unsung American heroes who served in it, some of whom were later unfairly accused of being Communist sympathizers during the McCarthy era and lost their careers. I wanted my book to shine a light on these men who served with honor in a distant land but haven’t yet been widely recognized for it,” said Lam.

The novel centers on an unlikely friendship between David Parker, an American soldier, and Lin Yuen, a Chinese Communist guerrilla fighter. Despite their deeply held, clashing convictions, they form a bond of brotherhood in battle.

“The two fictional soldiers initially have nothing in common but later form a strong friendship on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines,” said Lam. “It also transcends war and illustrates that individuals of opposite cultures and backgrounds can form unbreakable bonds, irrespective of what their leaders or governments tell them to believe.”

The book’s title comes from the notion that the character David Parker, son of an American missionary, was born and raised in China and fluent in Mandarin; this made him a “son” of China , just like Lin Yuen’s character.

For Dr. Lam, there were two other “sons of China” that helped inspire him to write this novel.

“The war in China forced both of my grandfathers to flee their homeland and ultimately make new lives for their families in America,” he said. “I will always be grateful for their courage and sacrifice, and their difficult experiences remind me that none of us should take being an American for granted.”

Dr. Lam is a retinal surgeon at Baystate Medical Center and an assistant professor at Tufts University School of Medicine. Before becoming a doctor, he earned a history degree from Yale. His first book, Saving Sight, about his work as an eye surgeon, has been an Amazon best-seller and has won awards from the New England and London Book Festivals in January 2014.