In This Review

My Fight for a New Taiwan: One Woman's Journey from Prison to Power
My Fight for a New Taiwan: One Woman's Journey from Prison to Power
By Hsiu-lien Lu and Ashley Esarey
344 pp, University of Washington Press, 2014

Today, the optimism and excitement stirred up by the wave of democratic transitions that swept the world in the 1980s and 1990s are hard to recall, much less rekindle. Many of the so-called Third Wave democracies have struggled to sustain the gains they made during those years, and more recent attempts to transform authoritarian states have ended in disappointment. That makes the new memoir by the democracy activist and feminist leader Lu (also known as Annette Lu), who was Taiwan’s vice president from 2000 to 2008, a welcome reminder of what is possible when political leaders -- government officials and antigovernment activists alike -- set aside their own interests and follow the will of the people they claim to serve. Lu’s story, which includes a stint in prison for political activity, emphasizes the compromises and sacrifices Taiwan’s democratic transition required from both sides. As an activist, Lu came to understand that attaining justice and democracy would mean collaborating with people who held goals quite different from hers, including nationalists and social conservatives. She portrays Taiwan’s democratization as the product of elites inside and outside the government responding to broad-based demands for freedom and accountability. Although the book includes some of the self-serving rhetoric one might expect to find in a political memoir, Lu’s engaging voice and extraordinary candor make it a surprising and inspiring read.