The Strength of Water

My debut book, The Strength of Water: An Asian American Coming of Age Memoir, is due out June 26, 2022, from Balestier Press. Stay tuned!


Water is fluid, soft, yielding. But water will wear away rock…what is soft is strong.

Lao Tzu

In 1920s Detroit, King Ying stands on a box to iron clothes in her parent’s laundry business and endures taunts of Ching-Ching Chinaman on the playground. She dreams of a home and the elegance of her Jane Arden paper dolls. But when her father incurs steeps debts during the Great Depression, he sends her far from hope to live in his ancestral village.

In remote Tai Ting Pong in the Guangdong province of China, King Ying feels as foreign in the land of her heritage as she did in the country of her birth. There, she must survive hunger, deadly superstition, and Japanese invasion. When a guardian angel helps her return to California, it’s a chance to seize her American dream … if she can overcome mid-20th century racism, those who prey on the economically vulnerable, and her family’s toxic expectations about marriage.

In this debut memoir, Karin K. Jensen records her mother’s transpacific quest for identity, survival, and new world dreams. The Strength of Water is a work of Asian American history told through one’s family’s experiences.