About the author
Louisa Lim is an award-winning journalist, podcaster and author. Her newest book Indelible City: Dispossession and Defiance in Hong Kong (Text, 2022) was also shortlisted for the Walkley Book Award and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. Her first book The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited (OUP, 2014) was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for political writing. She is a Senior Lecturer in Audiovisual Journalism at the University of Melbourne. She previously spent a decade in China as a correspondent for the BBC and NPR, and her work can also be read in the New York Times, the Guardian and the Washington Post.
About the book
The story of Hong Kong has long been obscured by competing myths: to Britain, a ‘barren rock’ with no appreciable history; to China, a part of Chinese soil from time immemorial that had at last returned to the ancestral fold. To its inhabitants, the city was a place of refuge and rebellion, whose own history was so little taught that they began mythmaking their own past.
When protests erupted in 2019 and were met with escalating suppression from Beijing, Louisa Lim – raised in Hong Kong as a half-Chinese, half-English child, and now a reporter who had covered the region for a decade – realised that she was uniquely positioned to unearth Hong Kong’s untold stories.
Lim’s deeply researched and personal account is startling, casting new light on key moments: the British takeover in 1842, the negotiations over the 1997 return to China, and the future Beijing seeks to impose. Indelible City features guerrilla calligraphers, amateur historians and archaeologists who, like Lim, aim to put Hong Kongers at the centre of their own story.
Wending through it all is the King of Kowloon, whose iconic street art both embodied and inspired the identity of Hong Kong – a site of disappearance and reappearance, power and powerlessness, loss and reclamation.
In Indelible City, Lim combines on-the-ground reporting of the experience of protestors in Hong Kong with an investigation into Hong Kong’s competing and contested histories. The work challenges how the media frames stories ‘from both sides’, and poses questions for all forms of history making, including contemporary non-fiction and memoir.
By choosing to participate in – and not just stand witness to – events, and then critiquing her reasons for doing so, Lim transgresses traditional expectations of journalism and forces the reader to consider the role journalism plays in shaping our understanding of the world. Indelible City is a vibrant international literary achievement, speaking to the shifting geopolitical moment we find ourselves in while also examining the ongoing legacy of imperialism and colonialism.
“Indelible City dismantles the received wisdom about Hong Kong’s history and replaces it with an engaging, exhaustively researched account of its long struggle for sovereignty.” – Amy Qin, The New York Times
“An ambitious project and a grand achievement, blending reportage and memoir to tell the story of a city caught between two competing narratives … Indelible City demonstrates the power of words in ways readers might not expect.” – Elizabeth Flux, The Saturday Paper
“Indelible City is more than a book: it is a haunting testimonial to the intertwined vitality, tragedy and hope of Hong Kong. Louisa Lim weaves together three powerful narratives to tell this city’s story…Unforgettable reading.” – Kevin Carrico, The Conversation
Listen to an interview with Louisa Lim on ABC Radio National’s Conversations
Hear Louisa discuss Indelible City on NPR’s Morning Edition
Read an interview with Louise Lim for Shondaland