Leta Hodge publishes book about her childhood in China
Local author Leta Tucker Hodge has gone back to her childhood for her latest book, "Ricksha Days Remembering Shanghai." In the book she records the two periods of time she lived in China during her childhood.
Hodge, who was born in China, lived there for six years before returning to America prior to World War II. She and her family then returned to China for two years after the war.
"I really wrote the book for my grandchildren," she said. "I wanted to explain what happened to our family during that time."
Hodge's father, William Jacob Tucker, was employed by the British American Tobacco Company in 1923, knowing he would be working in China. He met his wife while home in Virginia on leave in 1931. They were living in Tientsin in 1934 when their daughter was born. She began school in 1940 at the Shanghai American School, where she and her nanny, called an amah, would travel back and forth via a ricksha.
In October of that year, the U.S. State Department issued the order to evacuate American women and children from China. Hodge, her mother and younger brother Bill then returned to Virginia for six years. She was nine years old before she saw her father again, who stayed in China as the area fell under Japanese control. He spent time in a "camp" as a civilian detainee of the Japanese Army before returning to the United States.
The entire family returned to China in 1946, staying until near the end of 1948 when Americans were once again told to leave China as Mao Tze Tung and his Communist armies advanced across north-central China.
Hodge returned to Virginia to graduate high school and the University of Richmond. She briefly taught high school,then received a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship and a Thomas Jefferson Fellowship for graduate study in history at the University of Virginia. She married Edward D. Hodge, and moved to Mexico in 1961. They have three adult daughters and five grandchildren, ages 12-24.
Hodge worked on "Ricksha Days" sporadically for about 15 years. She began to write pieces of the story in the 1990s. "I was surprised that as I got into the story, the more I remembered," she said. "The story then began to fit together."
As she says in the book "Softly, with barely a warning whisper, China slipped into my life and left her indelible mark--sharp and deep, delicate and beautiful, squalid and sinister…China laid a claim to a part of me and never quite relinquished her hold" (41).
The idea to write the story was on Hodge's mind for a long time. "I think my mother would have liked to have written this book, but the time was never right for her," Hodge said.
However, it was her mother's letters, primarily to her sister back in the States, which provided many details for the stories. Hodge also kept a diary for part of the time. "The writing process for this book was different," she said. "The research was right there in front of me."
Hodge says she usually writes for two hours each morning when involved in a book. She said the writing of this book flowed more easily, probably because she had already written several books. She generally writes in long-hand, but now is doing more directly on the computer.
The author is not ruling out the writing of another book. "I'm waiting to see if something strikes me," she said. "I have to be enthused about a topic to write about it."
Her three previous books are "A Gathering of Our Days: Selected Writings on the History of Mexico and Audrain County," Soldiers, Scholars, Gentlemen: The First Hundred Years of the Missouri Military Academy," and "The Friend of Audrain: A History of Medicine in Audrain County."
"Ricksha Days" is available through Amazon. com and bn.com online.