For generations of Taiwanese people, the book “A New English Grammar” by Ke Chi-hua was a trusty sidekick. There had never been anything like it in Taiwan before- a systematic, no-nonsense guide to the the English language that demystified its inner workings so that even schoolchildren could make sense of them. Its revised editions and sequels went on to be bestsellers too, and through the whole middle of the 20th century, Ke Chi-hua’s English textbooks were the preferred option for Taiwanese students looking to master the language. After so many decades of use, these books have achieved an iconic stature as something everyone over a certain age will remember.
But their author, Ke Chi-hua, is himself an icon, and for far more than his role as Taiwan’s great English teacher. A political prisoner, novelist, and sharp-witted poet, Ke suffered intensely under Taiwan’s 20th century dictatorship and yet never shrank from firing back at it. Ke passed away in 2002, but his story isn’t his alone. His wife, Tsai A-li was at the center of it all. Together, they started a publishing house and a family, and during Ke’s years of imprisonment, it was her who ran the business, raised the family, and fed Taiwan’s insatiable demand of Ke’s books. Now 86, she remembers everything clearly, and she's here with us this week to share the first part of her story.