Island X delves into the compelling political lives of Taiwanese migrants who came to the United States as students from the 1960s through the 1980s. Often depicted as compliant model minorities, many were in fact deeply political, shaped by Taiwan's colonial history and influenced by the global social movements of their times. As activists, they fought to make Taiwanese people visible as subjects of injustice and deserving of self-determination.
Under the distorting shadows of Cold War geopolitics, the Kuomintang regime and collaborators across US campuses attempted to control Taiwanese in the diaspora through extralegal surveillance and violence, including harassment, blacklisting, imprisonment, and even murder. Drawing on interviews with student activists and extensive archival research, Wendy Cheng documents how Taiwanese Americans developed tight-knit social networks as infrastructures for identity formation, consciousness development, and anticolonial activism. They fought for Taiwanese independence, opposed state persecution and oppression, and participated in global political movements. Raising questions about historical memory and Cold War circuits of power, Island X is a testament to the lives and advocacy of a generation of Taiwanese American activists.