• Alex Lopez


There is a very special reason why I love historical fiction books. It’s for the hope that, one day, I’ll come across a book like #Unbound by Dina Gu Brumfield. In her debut work, Brumfield is able to tell a story of the generations before us, and the lives ahead of us. Through her protagonists, granddaughter Ting Lee and grandmother Mini Pao, we see the rawness of humanity, love of family, the ways we are bound by tradition, and, most importantly, how we can break free while still embracing all these elements.

If you’re going to read any historical fiction work this year, I’d highly recommend this #OwnVoices work.


The sweeping, multigenerational story of two iron-willed women, a grandmother and granddaughter, Unbound is also a richly textured, turbulent portrait of the city of Shanghai in the twentieth century – a place where everyone must fight to carve out a place for themselves amid upheaval and the turmoil of war.

Mini Pao lives with her sister and parents in a pre-war Shanghai divided among foreign occupiers and Chinese citizens, a city known as the “Paris of the East” with its contrast of vibrant night life and repressive social mores. Already considered an old maid at twenty-three, Mini boldly rejects the path set out for her as she struggles to provide for her family and reckons with her desire for romance and autonomy. Mini’s story of love, betrayal, and determination unfolds in the Western-style cafes, open-air markets, and jazz-soaked nightclubs of Shanghai – the same city where, decades later, her granddaughter Ting embarks on her own journey toward independence.


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