A native of Indonesia, Lian grew up in Bandung, a mountain city on the slopes of the Tangkuban Prahu, a sleeping volcano in West Java. Her family adhered to strict Chinese traditions inside the home and did not allow her to play with children who might have been attending the Dutch-Chinese school rather than the all-Dutch school she attended. Thus books and blank pages of notebooks became her best friends.
In their zeal to become westernized, the Gouw family encouraged the Dutch habit of reading for pleasure and boasted about Lian’s early accomplishments in penmanship which came in the form of winning writing contests and having pieces published in the school and local newspaper.
The escalating political unrest of WWII followed by the Indonesian Revolution shifted her family’s focus from making sure that she became an independent, professional woman, to making sure that she remained safe and honorable. This led to her marriage and emigration to America which put a halt to her hope to enter the workforce as a writer.
After living in a different country and speaking a second language for nearly four decades, Gouw dedicated herself again to write and discovered that she now wrote most naturally in English rather than in Dutch.
She tells us, “As the characters of Only A Girl one by one stepped forward, I started to write about their lives; first as separate stories then weaving these together into the bigger work.” Seven years and four revisions later, Only A Girl was published by Publish America.