Cover Image for In the Garden Behind the Moon

A captivating family portrait and an urgent call to awaken to the magic and wonder of daily life.

In the Garden Behind the Moon

A Memoir of Loss, Myth, and Magic

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Archaeologist, Alexandra Chan, thinks she has life figured out until, in the Year of the Ram, the death of her father―her last parent―brings her to her knees, an event seemingly foretold in Chinese mythology.

Born in 1913, Robert Earl Chan’s remarkable, century-spanning life is concluding its final chapter. One of six children born to a Chinese laundryman in Savannah, Georgia, he defied Jim Crow to attend high school and college, the first in his family to attend, and served the Pacific Theater of WWII as a colonel. Scholar, warrior, inventor, spy, he made a daring escape from a Japanese prison camp by commandeering an airplane, as well as invented the first lens to take pictures of earth from space and had 13 patents in aerospace engineering and optics. But he was also charming, handsome, and a superlative storyteller. In short, Robert Earl Chan was one in a million, and Alexandra’s personal colossus. Unable to find a way forward through her profound grief at his loss, she must either burn to ash or forge herself anew.

Slowly, painfully, wondrously, Chan discovers that her father and ancestors have left threads of renewal in the artifacts and stories of their lives. Through a long-lost interview conducted by Roosevelt’s Federal Writers’ Project, a basket of war letters written from the Burmese jungle, a box of photographs, her world travels, and a deepening relationship to her own art, the archaeologist and lifelong rationalist makes her greatest discovery to date: the healing power of enchantment. “We are a storytelling animal, for better or for worse,” she writes. “And the most important story we will ever tell is the story of our own lives”.

In an epic tale that travels from prerevolution China to the South under Jim Crow, from the Pacific theater of WWII to the black sands of Reynisfjara, Iceland, and beyond, Chan takes us on a universal journey to meaning in the wake of devastating loss. Part memoir, part lyrical invitation to new ways of seeing and better ways of being in dark times, the book includes beautiful full-color original Chinese brush paintings by the author and fascinating vintage photographs of an unforgettable cast of characters. In the Garden Behind the Moon is a captivating family portrait and an urgent call to awaken to the magic and wonder of daily life.

Estimated Ship Date: February 6th, 2024


Alexandra Chan

Alexandra A. Chan is the author of Slavery in the Age of Reason: Archaeology at a New England Farm, and has written extensively on the archaeology of northern slavery. She is a professional photographer and trained in Chinese brush painting. She lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Book Details

Publisher Flashpoint Books
Genre Biographies & Memoirs
Publication Date May 28 2024
ISBN 9781959411543


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