Book review: “Strait Talk” by Nancy Bernkopf Tucker

“Strait Talk” by Nancy Bernkopf Tucker is a book that I’ve wanted to read for a while. It was published in 2009 and is a look into U.S.-Taiwan relations. The book starts in the 1940s and continues to 2008. I think this is one of very few books that clearly focuses on the political relations between the United States and Taiwan. Many other books focus solely on Taiwan’s history or Taiwan’s relations with China.

Something I noticed quickly was that I was recognizing names of politicians early in their career. Oftentimes, we know politicians names based on their current work, but seldom do we know or remember their previous work. This was the case with U.S. politicians and Taiwanese politicians. People who later on became heads of state or key decision makers started out as assistants for the prior generation of decision makers. Many times, their prior attitudes and experience were reflected in future decisions, which was discussed thoroughly in the book.

The book is very thorough in describing circumstances and politicians. It reads very smoothly. I liked that it was very well organized. One thing I liked was the way the author lists out items to make a point, but goes beyond only using the word “first.” She then goes on with “second,” “third,” and beyond if necessary. I really appreciate that because many times I have lost track of a point or was not sure when a point had ended because one sentence would start with “first” and then the paragraph would trail off.

Another item I liked in the book was the inclusion of political cartoons from the time. The cartoons bring to life the attitude and feel of that political climate. The book also has an abbreviations list, which is very helpful since names of organizations and acronyms can get mixed up very easily.

I do wish that Chinese sayings and names were accompanied by the corresponding characters rather than only having the romanized form. However, this is mostly a reflection of the fact that I am more comfortable with Chinese characters than romanization.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in modern Taiwanese history, especially with respect to U.S.-Taiwan relations. This book does a phenomenal job of organizing and analyzing recent history.

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