Tainan in those days was a broken-down place, both its economy and its identity in ruins after World War II, 50 years of Japanese rule, and now Chiang's regime. My mother's family lived in a house with a dugout toilet and a garden wall through which she and her sisters spied on the local hurly-burly—mutts howling on the way to the dog meat shop, wives chasing deadbeat spouses with butcher knives. It was a military, melancholy time. On the mainland, my grandfather's father, a historian, ended his own life during the Communist persecution of academics. My grandmother's mother—an elegant, stern noblewoman—simply vanished, and it was rumored that she eventually sold cigarettes on the street. But my mother was just a child, so her memories of Tainan are happy. There were trips to the East Gate market, with its smells of dried shrimp and pickled radishes; temple festivals; and Sundays spent in tippling with renegade uncles, followed, perhaps, by Hitchcock or Billy Wilder at the cinema. My grandfather Chin Chang-ming was the center of this world. He was a swashbuckler, an intellectual, and a reckless giver of gifts. As an architect, he was a pioneer of the new and angular (when he raised pigeons, he painted their coop in Mondrian style). He smoked a pipe, wore black-rimmed glasses, and spoke in the northern Chinese accent that is gruff, gravelly, and, to me, still one of the most comforting sounds in the world. He was also a brilliant cook. He would encase crab roe in handmade wrappers for wonton, and his you-tiao (Chinese crullers) were as light as clouds.