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Long Way Home author to sign books at Grahams

by:  Flora Wong

Montana author Flora Wong, whose co-writer, Tom Decker, is a former Lake Oswego Review publisher, will sign copies of her new book, 'Long Way Home,' at Graham's Book and Stationery Nov. 10 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Most days, 83-year-old Wong spends at least an hour swimming 80 laps in her YMCA pool. The mother, grandmother and great-grandmother is an active swimmer and senior athlete, having competed in four National Senior Games and one World Senior Game.

A longtime Montanan, Wong was named Montana Big Sky Athlete of the Year in 1999 and inducted into the Helena Sports Hall of Fame in 2009. She has completed the Portland Marathon four times.

Now, in her new book, Wong retraces her family's odyssey as she shares personal insights, tragedies and triumphs.

The book's narrative begins in 1936 as Wong's family of 10, at the direction of her father, set out on a cross-country trip from Boston to the West Coast. There, they boarded a ship for a 21-day voyage to China.

Intent on returning to their native land, Wong's parents expected to establish a quiet life in an isolated corner of Southern China's Pearl River delta. As events unfolded in China, the family saw the frightful timing of their move.

By 1937, the Japanese launched a full-scale invasion of the country, part of a conflict that would set a course for World War II in the region. China's civil war between the Communist and Nationalist parties, simmering throughout the nation, festered during the worldwide conflict. After the world declared victory over Japan, a broad civil war broke out between Nationalist forces under Chaing Kai Shek and Communist troops led by Mao Zedong.

Her story recounts China's turmoil as Wong and her family managed to build a modest life in their small village. In time, this young girl whose only home had been Boston, learned to tend rice and vegetables, draw water from the town well, sew simple clothes and trap frogs and beetles. Her formal education ended at the second grade.

At 18, Wong learned she was engaged to be married. Wong's mother, Chen Sun Ho, working to ensure the survival of her six daughters, had set a plan in motion to arrange marriages for each to husbands from the United States. Her goal was safety for her children back in their home country of America.

Soon, Wong found out her husband-to-be was 22 years her senior. Using a local matchmaker, a Chinese widower in the U.S. chose her as his picture bride. As a result, the author began a new life in Montana, a world away from her small village. Back in America, the timid girl grew into a wife, mother and athlete.

From China's tumult to Montana's open skies, from worries about war to the responsibilities of motherhood and business, Wong's odyssey covers much of the world. The result of four years of interviews and writing is 'Long Way Home: Journeys of a Chinese Montanan.' The book was published September 2011.

Along with the book signing at Graham's Wong will conduct a question and answer session at 5:30 p.m. and again at 6:30 p.m.

Graham's is located at 460 Second St. in Lake Oswego.