Monday, July 14, 2014


The universality of problems between ethnic groups in the areas of communication and working together are addressed in Potions and Paper Cranes by Lan Fang. This newly translated work of  historical fiction, is a testament to our shared humanity, regardless of race or social standing. 

Recognizing that traditional cultures can harbor gender inequality and domestic violence, the book’s publisher, Lian Gouw, founder of Dalang Publishing, feels it’s important to bring education and awareness to the reader so they understand how traditional culture in Indonesia and other countries, often impacts women’s rights. Dalang Publishing's mission is to spread the history, culture, and beauty of Indonesia through writing. In her own works, Lian explores themes of human relationships and the lives and struggles of women. 


March 27, 2014 – Rallying against a chauvinistic society that allowed violence against women, Potions and Paper Cranes by Lan Fang, English translation by Elisabet Titik Murtisari (Publication Date: December 1, 2013) is a testament to a shared humanity, regardless of race or social standing.

Most of the world, including the U.S., has problems of domestic violence and gender inequality. In Indonesia, these problems are magnified by traditional conservative cultures and being a post-colonial society.  In Lan Fang’s Potions and Paper Cranes, women find a way to achieve independence and dignity in the midst of war and revolution.

Set in Surabaya, East Java, during WWII and the boiling point of the Indonesian Revolution, the reader is given an inside look at the turmoil that plagued every-day life in Indonesia.  Granted independence from Dutch rule less than seventy years ago, the country is still haunted by a legacy of colonialism that goes back to the 17th century.

Writers and poets like Lan Fang, along with musicians, painters, and craftspeople, show the modern-day struggles to make sense of the past, a typical problem faced by many postcolonial societies.

“…Underneath the novel is a critique against the chauvinistic, masculine nationalist paradigm that sanctions violence against women and breaks families…”
Melani Budianta
Professor of Literary & Cultural Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Indonesia

Lan Fang had a genuine concern for Indonesia as a nation, and especially its women. During her lifetime, she was known as a humanitarian and activist, spending much of her time volunteering in educational institutions and organizing protests about violence against woman and child abuse.  In Potions and Paper Cranesshe addresses the problems of domestic violence with great compassion for those who were dealt a bitter slice of life.

…Themes of domestic violence, misplaced romance, passionate sex, separation, and reunion drive the narrative, but at the heart of the novel is the fate of women and children in war…Potions and Paper Cranes affirms the fragility of hatred, and the capacity of memory and love to endure a lifetime of separation.
George Quinn
Adjunct Professor, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

Using the first person narrative so readers can experience the raw human emotions of love and hate, each of the three main characters tell their story in their own voice - Sulis, the potion seller; Sujono the harbor coolie with dreams of becoming a freedom fighter, and whose passion for Matsumi, a geisha, is destined to ruin all of them.

For many Americans, Indonesia is an unknown country with an unknown culture and history. The archipelago contains approximately 17,508 islands with a population of 258 million people, making it the fourth highest population in the world. It also has about 300 diverse ethnic groups.  Potions and Paper Cranes demystifies Indonesia and its people, giving Americans a glimpse into the past and present of this mineral rich country.


Award-winning author Lan Fang is known for her intense first person narratives about women in ethnic and culture conflicts. Critics have praised her ability to cross the borders of gender, race, and religion. She passed away at the age of forty-one, leaving behind nine novels and many short stories.


Lian Gouw, the author of Only A Girl, founded Dalang Publishing – an independent publishing house specializing in English translations of Indonesian literary works in 2011. Dalang is the Indonesian word for “Master Storyteller.”  

In the two years since its founding, Dalang published three books and currently has three novels in translation, scheduled for publication this fall. True to its mission, Dalang Publishing focuses on historical and cultural novels.  

The recognition of Indonesian literature is growing, and the international publishing community has named Indonesia as the guest of honor at the 2015 International Frankfurt Bookfair.

By Lan Fang
By Elisabet Titik Murtisari
ISBN: 978-0-9836273-3-3
Original Paperback:  256 pages  Price:  $17.95
Publication Date: December 2013
Publisher:  Dalang Publishing

My Review:
There were parts in this book that made me realized how blessed I am to live in America. Freedom is NOT free, and there were many, many people before us that had to suffer and go through wars. This book also made me smile because it is also about being human, and doing anything for the people you love. This is a great book, and I am glad that it was translated into english. I am also glad that I read about Indonesia. I am giving this book a 5/5. I was given a copy to review, however all opinions are my own.

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