Dreaming in Chinese | Critical Book Review

William Tsung’s Dreaming in Chinese is not just a memoir; it’s a bold act of resistance and self-preservation, a poignant ode to the indomitable human spirit. In this starred review, we delve into the relentless scrutiny of the Taiwanese penal system and its chilling repercussions on those ensnared within its confines.


Unveiling the Dark Underbelly

“The punishment should reflect the crime, and no crime justifies the exploitation of prison labor.”

Tsung’s narrative peels back the layers of societal disparities, laying bare the harsh reality faced by Taiwanese prisoners. The memoir takes a no-holds-barred approach, challenging preconceived notions about justice and fairness. By transforming seemingly unsympathetic characters into relatable figures, Dreaming in Chinese compels readers to confront the corruption embedded in a system that thrives on the forced labor of its incarcerated population.


A Journey Through Injustice

“Familiarity breeds contempt; insignificant problems festered until they became enormous problems. Resentment builds. Eventually, it exploded.”

Tsung, a Taiwanese-American in his early thirties, found himself thrust into the nightmarish world of Taiwanese prisons for a crime that hardly warranted such extreme punishment. His ordeal, stemming from the innocent act of carrying prescribed cannabis edibles, unravels a tale of injustice and inhumane conditions. The memoir serves as a plea for understanding and compassion in the face of an unforgiving penal system.


The Absurdity of Prison Life

“A running joke was whoever showered first that day yelled out the water color. It never looked like water; sometimes it was yellow, sometimes it was black. We used it no matter what color it was. It was that or nothing.”

Tsung paints a vivid picture of the prison “ecosystem” marked by governmental hypocrisy. The absurdity of life behind bars, where basic necessities like sanitary water are withheld, leaves prisoners vulnerable to a myriad of health issues. The narrative unearths the paradoxical nature of a system that claims to rehabilitate but often exacerbates the problems it seeks to solve.


Poetic Reflections on Desolation

“I used to eat until I was full. In prison, I ate until I wasn’t hungry.”

Tsung weaves a poetic rhythm into his prose, employing repetition to underscore the monotony and despair of prison life. His writing, both accurate and visceral, reveals a lightness and poeticism that captivates readers. Dreaming in Chinese invites its audience into an intimate space, as if whispered secrets echo through the pages.


A Condemnation of Systemic Failures

“Instead of getting counseling, offenders went to the black room, then returned to gen pop angrier than ever. No wonder the black rooms were always full. It was an ouroboros of human misery.”

Beyond Tsung’s personal journey, Dreaming in Chinese serves as a scathing condemnation of a system designed to exploit the vulnerable. As the narrative unfolds, it also prompts readers to question their own understanding of justice, calling attention to parallels with America’s penal system. This memoir is a compelling read for those committed to the pursuit of social justice, challenging preconceptions about the worth and dignity of individuals entangled in the web of the justice system.

Publisher, Genre, Print Length, ISBN

PublisherGenrePrint LengthISBN
IndieBookViewNonfiction / Memoir277 pagesXXX-XXXXX-XXXX

William Tsung’s Dreaming in Chinese is not just a memoir; it’s a bold act of resistance and self-preservation, a poignant ode to the indomitable human spirit. In this starred review, we delve into the relentless scrutiny of the Taiwanese penal system and its chilling repercussions on those ensnared within its confines. Unveiling the Dark Underbelly…