LA Review of Books: “I Felt Like I Was Drowning”: On Women’s Rights in Taiwan

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IN FEBRUARY 2017, Taiwanese indie press Guerrilla published a novel by a first-time author named Lin Yi-Han. Lin was the only child of a well-respected dermatologist in Tainan, one of Taiwan’s largest cities on its west coast. She was a top performing student during high school — beautiful, smart, bookish yet popular — but she was also privately struggling with a hell she had no language for. At 16, she began admitting herself to psychiatric clinics in the capital, Taipei, and was in and out for the next several years. Mainstream publishers refused to take her on as an author, believing her mental illness would be bad for publicity.

The novel follows a 13-year-old girl who is groomed and raped by her literature teacher for a number of years. The candid, raw descriptions of sexual abuse enraged some readers in a country where private matters are seldom aired publicly. Yet the book became an instant best seller. Lin gave several interviews on television and in print, deflecting questions about whether her protagonist’s experience reflected her own, and focusing instead on the craft of her writing. Two months after the release of her book, Lin was found dead in her apartment by her husband. She died by suicide. She was 26 years old.

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