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Faculty of Humanities, University of Indonesia.
Aside from being a novel about a deeply moving saga of an Indonesian-Chinese family during the tumultuous times of war and revolution, as other reviewers have rightly pointed out, Only A Girl also invites us to explore the complexity of the term ‘progress’, as each of the main characters of the novel understands it–and struggles with it. At times, they embrace progress in order to grab what life has to offer; at other times, they have to turn their backs against progress so that they may survive the impossible circumstances of their lives. Lian Gouw has opened up a new avenue of examining the intricate web of class-gender-ethnicity in a trans-national context, while refraining from making any hasty moral judgments on the characters’ views of themselves, and the subsequent actions they take as a result of such personal outlooks.
Executive Editor Jossey-Bass/John Wiley &Sons.
Only a Girl is a terrific book. Lian Gouw is a great story teller and has shown me so much I never knew about the history, people, society and culture of an important part of the world, which is so crucial to know about now, in this time of global connection and transformation.
2010 Healdsburg Literary Laureate
Author of Feeding Strays, Lost Horse Press.
In her debut novel, Only A Girl, Lian Gouw has assembled cultural history, social commentary, and character development skillfully. The thought-provoking novel is an intricate weave of family and civilization coming to terms with the past, the present, the future, and war.
Set in Indonesia between 1930 and 1952, Only A Girl is a finely detailed portrait of three courageous Chinese women trying to find their way in a world of cultural melding and upheaval as Western “progress” clatters against customary Chinese mores.
Only A Girl causes self and societal introspection – we are reminded of the potentially tentative situation of any political system. It is a captivating novel that mines history, heartbreak and humanity.
Award winning author, My Half of the Sky, Komenar Publishing.
Your heart will be torn by the Lee family, citizens of Indonesia during that country’s most dynamic period of history (1932-1952). You’ll struggle with them as they grapple with which rituals to honor when the world is changing beneath their feet year after year, from Dutch control to Japanese control to Indonesian control. Gouw brings this fascinating piece of history alive.
Martha Clark Scala,, MFT.
Editor, Out on a Limb – E Newsletter.
In Lian Gouw’s Only a Girl, you take a trip to Bandung, Indonesia in 1932 without having to board an airplane. You are transported to a scene in which Chinese family values clash amidst the Indonesian Revolution in the colonial Dutch East Indies. You are immersed in a couple of strained households, a tense country, and an intense time of political and familial change. Fasten your seat belt for a rich tale that provides a terrific view of a multigenerational family entering the modern world.