What does it mean to be “thrice alien”? Isabelle Zimmer Maynard is one who knows. Born in 1929 in Tientsin, China, Maynard was the only child of Russian Jewish parents who had fled the Communists and sought refuge in this teeming city on the North China Sea. They subsequently survived the Japanese invasion of China and ultimately escaped to San Francisco when the Chinese Communists seized power. China Dreams, like a string of beguiling pearls, is a collection of autobiographical stories of an amazing childhood. Maynard's ability to reconstruct her world in the moment will delight and enchant readers. She says, “I have carried China all my life. I do not claim accuracy of history—only accuracy of the heart.” Her keen eye and fetching wit provide an arresting, poignant, highly personal portrait of a now-vanished world once shared by thousands of European Jews.
“This is a fascinating memoir, not only because it introduces us to yet another of the versatile and durable Jewish communities that have thrived in unlikely places, but because Isabelle Maynard is a sensitive, funny, and frequently moving chronicler of childhood and adolescence. She was an unsparing eye and emotional exactness, her China Dreams brings us into a world we could never have imagined without her uncanny guidance.”—Rosellen Brown, author of Before and After
“Today, in the Chinese city of Tianjin, the little world inhabited by thousands of Europeans half a century ago is still visible. The buildings remain, but for the people you must turn to the fascinating memoir by Isabelle Maynard of growing up in this mixed foreign community. Here you will find the German Jewish refugee still in shell shock after losing all his family and possessions in Nazi Germany, the eccentric British neighbor with her apartment full of books, the boisterous Russian Orthodox friends who, full of vodka, burst into anti-Semitic songs, the maudlin French widow giving language lessons, the American school friend who comes in an embassy car. Oddly missing, though, are the Chinese, no more than vague shadows hovering in the background of this strange lost world.”—R. David Arkush, University of Iowa
“Maynard is a skillful and evocative writer … there is more to Isabelle's story than merely growing up during two turbulent decades of China's history. Without disrupting the delicate web of her narrative, the author subtly indicates the larger shene: the still largely unexplored history of the Russian Jewish community in China… Isabelle Maynard's book is a rich and welcome contribution to a growing shelf of China memoirs.”—Studies in Contemporary Jewry