Sunday, September 4, 2016

Grace: A China Diary 1910-16 Will Be Published

Grace and Harvey Roys, my maternal grandparents, probably 1911 or 1912, Possibly in Kuling, maybe it will be on the cover of the book Grace.

Grace: A China Diary, 1910-1916, is a transcription of the diary my grandparents Grace and Harvey Roys kept in China 1910-1916, with my careful, extensive annotations.  I first became interested in this diary some years ago, because Grace had suffered from bi-polar disease before it was well understood.  My mother’s fear that her daughters would also suffer mental illness hung over my childhood and adolescence.  Twelve years ago I decided to annotate the diary, which I hoped would help me understand Grace better.  

In the meantime I have written and published other books, but at intervals I researched Grace’s life in Nanking.  With the encouragement of Marie, a fellow writer, and Sam Hammond, who recently retired from Duke’s Rubentstein Library staff and is still the University Carillonneur, I did extensive research to follow up on all the people mentioned in the diary as well as on many of the domestic details. I also consulted Emeritus Professor Lawrence Kessler, who published The Jiangyin Mission Station: An American Missionary Community in China:1895-1951 (Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press, 1996); he read the manuscript twice and gave me suggestions. My friend by email, Edith Barakat, born to missionaries serving in another part of China, helped me tremendously with the research.  My siblings and cousins have also cheered me on!

In December 1910 Grace and Harvey were married, despite her having had a mental breakdown weeks earlier when her missionary father forbade the marriage.  The diary records their early married life, the births of their first two children, their social life with other missionaries in China, many of whom made major contributions to Nanking life and education: medical doctors and nurses; theology professors; agricultural innovators; founders of universities, hospitals, nursing schools, and schools for young Chinese women and men.  

Grace has been accepted for publication by Wipf and Stock, a religious publisher in Eugene, Oregon.  Actual publication is likely to be in 2017 or even 2018.  This gives me great joy, to bring Grace Roys’s life and suffering to the public.

As to its possible audience, Grace should contribute to understanding what a Protestant missionary’s life was like in the early 1900s in China.  This book should appeal to those interested in missionary and Protestant denomination history, women’s history, and how mental illness was treated in China among the missionaries in the early 20th century.


Left to right, Grace, Jeanie, Grace's younger sister, baby Margaret (my mother), Charlie, the youngest brother of Grace, Samuel Isett Woodbridge, Grace's father, on the steps of their Nanking home, late 1913.  Note Charlie's irreverent dirty feet.

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