Cover for JAN: Unbound Spirit: Letters of Flora Belle Jan. Click for larger imageUnbound Spirit: Letters of Flora Belle Jan chronicles the life of a Chinese American flapper/journalist.  Her letters to a German immigrant friend from Russia describe her youth in California, her college and young adult years in Chicago, and her subsequent life in China. 

Flora Jan’s life was framed by the Congressional Cable Act of 1922, which followed other legislation that legalized racism, and by World War II and Mao’s victories in China.  She did not live to see the turmoil and eventual success of the civil rights movement of the 1960′s.  In this book of letters to her intimate friend, she tells of her hopes and dreams and struggles to achieve.  Her personal story is told in the context of history in transition in America and in China.

Flora Jan died young and poor.  She did not live to see her children complete their studies and achieve professional success.  She would have been pleased with their fortunate marriages to loving and supportive partners.  She would have been proud of her granddaughter who reached the summit of Kilimanjaro.  And so each generation has accomplished more of the aspirations of those who went before.

Now we live in a time of audacious hope and great expectations.  Today’s social and political landscape is much different from what Flora Jan experienced.  But the wit, charm and deep passion of her writing continue to inspire.


Fleur Yano is a professor emerita of physics and astronomy at California State University, Los Angeles, and a daughter of Flora Belle Jan.  She is co-editor of the new book Unbound Spirit: Letters of Flora Belle Jan (February 2, 2009).

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