Mengyu Dong talks to Scott Tong about A Village with My Name
Part of the challenge of writing a family history is that the people in the story, or their direct descendents, might still be alive. And they may not want the story to be told. As a journalist, you don’t let a source decide what goes into your reporting. Is it more complicated when the subjects are your family?
Yes. The part about my maternal grandfather was particularly challenging because he was a wartime collaborator and that was obviously shameful for the family. My mother didn’t remember him because they were separated when she was young. But she did remember the pain of growing up without a father. And the family never talked about him. Before I started researching for the book, all I knew was that he worked for the Wang Jingwei government in Shanghai. Then as I started to research and found more about him, things weren’t that black and white anymore. They start to enter the grey area. You know, as a father, he was trying to put food on the table for his family. He took care of his brother’s widow and his niece. I think during wartime, people face a lot of tough choices, and can end up on the wrong side of history.