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Before I Was Born

Tja Ling Hu


Before I Was Born

Tja Ling Hu


Art / New titles / Special editions & multiples



Graphic designer

Tina De Souter (

Number of pages

56 (leporello)

Book size

25.5 x 17 x 1.3 cm



English | Dutch | Chinese

Text: Florisz van Dijk. Chinese translation: Mel Chan.

Al drawings: Tja Ling (

This publication has been made possible through the generous support of the Fiep Westendorp Foundation, Stichting Stokroos, Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie and Amsterdam Museum.

Promotional photographs by: The Book Photographer

In Before I Was Born, Tja Ling illustrates the story of her family’s journey from China to the Netherlands, between the 1930s and 1970s, in 14 interconnected pencil drawings. Out of respect and admiration for the way her (grand)- parents built a life for themselves with all the challenges they have had to face, migrating without any formal education or knowledge of the local language. 

These drawings are a chronicle of pride, strength and respect. A narrative of a child discovering why her parents are the way they are, why they did what they did and how, ultimately, their experiences were destined to also shape her, even before she was born.

 The unique binding method ensures that all drawings are connected without the interruption of a page border. When fully opened, the book measures 4.75m in length. Due to the leporello binding, the book can be browsed in 2 directions. There are 2 ‘sides’ to the book, just as there are 2 sides to every story.