Books · 21 May 2024

The Girl Who Dreamed

A Hong Kong Memoir of Triumph Against the Odds (Review)

In “The Girl Who Dreamed: A Hong Kong Memoir of Triumph Against the Odds,” Sonia Leung shares her inspiring journey from a challenging childhood in Hong Kong to becoming an accomplished and independent woman. At 14, Sonia endured a traumatic event that significantly impacted her life. Struggling to adapt to her new environment in Hong Kong, she faced numerous hardships, including cramped living conditions and familial tensions. Feeling isolated and unloved, Sonia courageously saved money from her part-time job and, at 15, fled to Taipei in search of a new beginning.

This memoir explores her childhood experiences in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, highlighting the resilience and determination that led her to an independent life. Sonia’s story is one of survival and triumph as she navigates cultural adjustments, family conflicts, and personal challenges. Through hard work and education, she ultimately broke free from the constraints of her past and forged her path.


Xu Xi, author of That Man in Our Lives:

“Sonia Leung has woven together her own story of survival, ambition, and self-discovery as a contemporary Chinese woman from a difficult background with a story of family history, one that is particular to her ancestral family’s mainland Chinese and overseas Chinese background, coupled with her parents’ decision to move to Hong Kong that proves significant, sad and transformative for her and her family. This is set against the recent history of China and Hong Kong. Threaded through this narrative is Sonia’s relation to literature in general and classic Chinese literature in particular. However, her discovery, as an unhappy and abused young girl, of popular Taiwan romance novels, is equally as moving. The self-determination of the protagonists of such novels serves as inspiration for her to make an extraordinary ‘escape’ out of Hong Kong. That section demonstrates, with extraordinary power and poignancy, Sonia’s ambition that is given wings, as it were, by the power of imagination found through reading.”

Susanne Antonetta, author of The Terrible Unlikelihood of Our Being Here:

“When I first read Sonia Leung’s work, I was struck by her literary skills. I was clearly in the hands of a remarkable writer, with a deft hand for character, imagery, and scene. Leung joins an unsparing eye for the tensions of class and gender in contemporary China. Leung is a remarkably brave narrator, exposing her abuse, and the trauma of her family’s role in that abuse. In this beautiful read, Leung teaches us that redemption happens both outside and inside. As #MeToo stalls, Sonia Leung arrives to show us what that movement means.”

Justin Hill, author of The Drink and Dream Teahouse:

“Leung’s writing is punchy and detailed, and there is a very powerful story of growth and transformation that parallels and throws light upon China’s own journey into the modern world.”

Luis Francia, author of Eye of the Fish: A Personal Archipelago:

“One strength Leung decidedly has is a graphic and vivid sense of the physicality of a setting … Related to her graphic and vivid sense of language is the effective use of dialogue, enabling her to quickly bring the reader into the middle of a scene.”

Michael O’Sullivan, author of Lockdown Lovers:

“Sonia Leung’s The Girl Who Dreamed is an uncompromising and inspiring account of resilience and perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. In a beautifully crafted narrative, rich with allusions to the classics of Chinese literature, Leung details how the life of one girl who dreamed of self-actualisation in Hong Kong was brutally unravelled by those she trusted shortly after rejoining her family in a slum in Diamond Hill. Leung’s story – which took 10 years to write – is all the more remarkable considering she took her first English class in Hong Kong at age 12. The Girl Who Dreamed marks something of a watershed moment in memoir writing in Hong Kong literature. Never before have the first-hand experiences of the impoverished mainland immigrants arriving in Hong Kong in the 1980s been so carefully narrated from a girl’s and then a young woman’s perspective. The narrative of brutal gendered violence experienced at the hands of local and expat men is surely a story that rings true for many women who have migrated to Hong Kong. Leung’s memoir allows readers to come to terms with the trauma of migration coupled with the violence that so many experienced. But her narrative goes further still; in a remarkable display of fortitude and authorial conviction, Leung repeatedly demonstrates how hope can be found in reading and writing, even when pain becomes too suffocating to endure or even acknowledge.”

Author website: Sonia Leung
Facebook: Sonia Leung

Purchase on Amazon: The Girl Who Dreamed

Publisher: Blacksmith Books
Published: 1st October 2024
ISBN-13: 978-9887674856

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