Like the sequoias of the U.S. Pacific Northwest, pink and yellow cedars in Taiwan are so massive that simply two of them, writes environmental historian Jessica J. Lee, can look and feel like an entire forest. She finds them as she hikes through the mountainous backbone of the country wherein her loved grandfather Gong turned into sent domestic to die, alone inside the dementia of Alzheimer’s. Lee nevertheless grieves his solitary demise and is decided to learn more approximately his lifestyles from earlier than he and Po, her “irascible, tough grandmother,” have become Canadian immigrants. In Taiwan, wherein Lee is both stranger and descendant, her compass is a slightly decipherable letter left at the back of by using Gong, written as his mind disintegrated. Two Trees Make a Forest: In Search of My Family’s Past Among Taiwan’s Mountains and Coasts charts her ardent quest to find out and reconcile her family’s past with her need to say an ancestral domestic.
Her adventure is a challenge. Taiwan’s language is sort of as foreign to Lee as its landscape—volcanic fumaroles, towering peaks enveloped in fog and the steady threat of mudslides and earthquakes. Lee research the calligraphy of each Taiwanese and Chinese (her mother speaks Mandarin) and sprinkles her memoir with the illustrations that assist her locate her way thru the 2 languages. Still, as she visits her mom’s crowded childhood domestic metropolis of Taipei, Lee’s biracial functions and diffident tongue reveal her as a foreigner.
Taiwan has a complicated history, explored and exploited by way of Europeans and tossed to and fro between Japan and China. Lee learns that Gong become a fighter pilot with the famous Flying Tigers, risking his existence on mystery missions and rewarded for his bravery. Injured in a 1969 crash that have to have killed him, he could now not fly and left Taiwan for the promise of flying in Canada, most effective to come to be a manufacturing facility janitor instead.
Lee reveals her personal methods of imprinting her rediscovered homeland on her spirit. Using her abilties as a scholar, she identifies the many species she finds as she hikes and motorcycles via the countryside, some current nowhere else in the world. As Taiwan reveals itself, Lee involves a type of peace. Gong’s past and her present, so evocatively examined, advise the forest she had to discover.