Porter Square Books is glad to welcome Kwan Kew Lai, author of The Girl Who Taught Herself to Fly, for a conversation with E. B. Bartels.
This event will take place on Thursday, November 10 at 7pm at Porter Square Books (25 White St. Cambridge, MA 02140). Masks are required for all attending this event. RSVPs, while not required, are strongly encouraged- scroll down to RSVP below!
About the Book
Kwan Kew Lai met her first Punjabi woman doctor while lying in a hospital bed with a severe kidney infection at the age of fourteen. Watching the woman walk away down the hall, Kwan Kew was convinced she could, and would, carve out her own destiny.
In the British Straits Settlement of Penang Island, she was born into an impoverished Chinese family of two boys and ten girls on the cusp of the Japanese occupation during World War Two. She did not wish to repeat the life of her uneducated mother, burdened with an endless brood, nor tolerate the fact that her father considered girls useless since they could not carry on their family name.
The newly independent country of Malaya developed a national policy favoring one racial group, the Bumiputras, vastly diminishing her chance of receiving a university scholarship. Her fortuitous introduction to a free library and her determination to continue her education, led to the opportunity of a lifetime: a scholarship from Wellesley College.
When her father saw her off at the Penang International Airport as the first child to attend college, she proved herself to him, but more importantly she started the journey of a lifetime fulfilling dreams that originated as a young girl playing in the mud with the chickens.
In The Girl Who Taught Herself to Fly, the author weaves in her family's story of joy, sorrow, loss, love, and endless struggles with poverty and hunger. This poignant memoir, with universal and timeless themes, will leave you in awe.
Originally from Penang, Malaysia, Kwan Kew Lai attended Wellesley College on a full scholarship, paving the way for her to become a doctor. In 2005, she left her position as a professor of medicine to dedicate time to humanitarian work: in HIV/AIDS in Africa and to provide disaster relief all over the world, during wars, famine, and natural disasters, including the Ebola outbreak, the Syrian, Rohingya refugee crises, Yemen, and the COVID-19 pandemic in New York and the Navajo Nation. She is a three-time recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award. She is the author of Lest We Forget: A Doctor’s Experience with Life and Death During the Ebola Outbreak, Into Africa, Out of Academia: A Doctor’s Memoir, and The Girl Who Taught Herself to Fly. She lives near Boston.
E.B. Bartels is a nonfiction writer, a former Newtonville Books bookseller, and a GrubStreet instructor, with a BA from Wellesley College and an MFA from Columbia University. Her work has appeared in Catapult, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, The Millions, The Toast, and The Butter, among others, and she is the author of Good Grief: On Loving Pets, Here and Hereafter, a narrative nonfiction book about the world of loving and losing animals. E.B. lives outside Boston with her husband, Richie, and their many, many pets.
Interested in joining us? Please RSVP here to let us know you're coming and to receive event updates.
Because of how it is sold to us we cannot accept a return of this title.