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Book Review: "The Girl Who Taught Herself to Fly"

by Kwan Kew Lai

I love stories about women who rock it in life, especially those like Kwan Kew Lai, who grew up in Malaysia and knocked down one obstacle after another in her rejection of females as powerless and worthless. Read my review of her memoir, The Girl Who Taught Herself to Fly, below or on Goodreads.


Kwan Kew Lai’s memoir is a feast for anyone who loves inspirational tales about female empowerment and extraordinary women who make their dreams come true.

Unlike fairytales, however, the author is candid about her impoverished, neglected childhood on Penang Island in Malaysia. One of twelve kids in an ethnically Chinese family, her mother didn’t have the time or money to invest in any of them, and her much older father had no interest.

Even as a young girl, the author could plainly see she and other females had no power and were deemed worthless. She began looking for a way out and found her path at the age of fourteen when she was hospitalized: she wanted to be a doctor. She put her head down, worked hard, and when applied for and got a scholarship from Wellesley College, I actually cheered.

Against all the odds, the author achieved her dream and is now a Harvard Medical faculty physician, with a specialty in infectious diseases. She travels the world volunteering her services during epidemics and disasters.

As a female, I’ve always known there’s more to do in my own country to create equal opportunities for women. But after reading Kwan’s story, I was reminded of how much work remains to knock down the formidable obstacles faced by many women around the globe so like Kwan, their light can shine on the world, too.


For updates about Martha’s forthcoming memoir, Bliss Road (June 2023), historical novel, The Falcon, the Wolf and the Hummingbird (October 2023), or other books, news and giveaways, subscribe to

#books #bookreview #memoir #nonfiction

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