Longmeadow surgeon pens World War II novelBy JUDITH KELLIHER , Associated Press
Feb. 23, 2014 12:31 AM ET
LONGMEADOW, Mass. (AP) — Retinal surgeon Andrew Lam's new novel, with World War II as the backdrop, takes place China.
"When people think of the Second World War, China doesn't usually come to mind. But this story takes place in one of the forgotten theaters of that war," said Lam, 37, of Longmeadow.
"Two Sons of China" was inspired by the real-life efforts of Americans who served with the Dixie Mission of 1944. Long fascinated by World War II, Lam was interested in the mission, in which Americans went to the Communist stronghold of Yenan in China's Shensi Province to check on reports that the Chinese Communists, led by Mao Zedong, were fighting the Japanese.
"World War II was a cataclysmic event in human history. The thing that always frustrated me was that relatively little was written about China, compared to other theaters of the war," said Lam. "I'm Chinese-American and I've always been interested in East Asian-U.S. relations. Not enough people know about the thousands of Americans who served in China during the war, and they don't realize how important China was to the war effort."
Lam, who earned a history degree at Yale University before attending medical school, describes the book as both a "war saga and romance novel" that revolves around an unlikely friendship between an American soldier and a Chinese Communist guerilla fighter.
"They end up being paired on a mission behind the lines and their deeply held, clashing convictions threaten to derail the mission. But ultimately the battles they fight bring them together, and they form this strong bond of brotherhood," Lam said.
As the end of the war forces America to essentially take sides in the upcoming civil war between Communist and nationalist forces, the two men's loyalties are tested.
Lam said he has read many books on the war in China and had studied military and Chinese history in college.
Lam's first book, "Saving Sight: An eye surgeon's look at life behind the mask and the heroes who changed the way we see," was published last year and became a best seller on Amazon. The book recently received honorable mentions at the New England Book Festival, and the London Book Festival in the biography/autobiography category. In the book, Lam writes about his own experiences as a retinal surgeon, while highlighting medical inventions from noted ophthalmologists.
"I love what I do as a surgeon but I've always had a desire to study history and write books that make it more accessible to people who might not necessarily pick up a book about history," he said.
Lam is a surgeon at New England Retina Consultants and an attending surgeon at Baystate Medical Center. He and his wife, Christina Lam, have four children, Alex, 10, twins Audrey and Sophia, 8, and Daniel, 2.
Lam is in the process of editing his second novel, "Repentance." The book is about the most highly decorated unit in U.S. military history — the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The unit of Japanese-American soldiers fought in Europe during World War II, while many of their families were held in internment camps at home, he said.