Joan Kelleher Gencarelli was born in London, England, and has lived in Kailua, Hawaii since the early 1960s, where she raised her two children along with various dogs, cats, ducks, and fish. In 1986, she left Hawaii to accompany her husband to Beijing. Over the next ten years they would move to Korea then Thailand. Joan’s first career was as a technical writer. In 2002, she began writing fiction for fun, starting with short stories inspired by her childhood and her years in Asia. Her short story “Evacuation—There and Back,” based on her memories of WWII became part of the BBC WWII People’s War archives. First awarded the Golden Plover Award, in 2006 she received the Lorin Tarr Gill Honorable Mention for non-fiction. In 2021 she published “When the Bough Breaks, Memories of Operation Pied Piper”. Joan is an avid traveler and still has a few places left on her “wish list.” She is drawn to the exotic, with an emphasis on culture, history and, yes, shopping!
When the Bough Breaks
Four-year-old girls dream of dolls, ice cream, and fun—but not four-year-old Joan Kelleher. Her only wish is to be with her family again. She longs for her mother’s embrace, enough food to eat and safety from the horrors of World War II. Torn from her home and placed with foster families forced to take in a child they do not want is only the beginning of Joan’s struggle for survival.
With hope in her heart for a reunion with her family, Joan tells us of the five years she endured in the homes of strangers, battling abuse, cold dark rooms . . . indifference. Creating a fantastical world of make-believe where she's reunited with her family is the only joy she finds.
The reunion five years later isn't the joyful celebration Joan imagined. Her family are just as broken as the war-torn buildings surrounding them. They are a family of strangers. But within Joan, there remains that same unfaltering hope and optimism, just waiting to be fulfilled.
When the Bough Breaks is a heartfelt memoir, encompassing the courage and strength that one young girl possesses in a time when all seems shattered and lost.
Call Me Tai Tai
What would you do if given the chance to relocate to a far-off country, leaving everything you know behind?
Part love story, part travelogue, Call Me Tai Tai explores author Joan Kelleher’s life-changing journey as she follows her husband to 1980’s China. Departing her beloved Hawaii, where she raised her children and carved out a career, it’s Joan’s time to leave the nest. Throwing caution to the wind, she gives up her predictable future to follow her instincts and take the biggest gamble of her life.
But it wouldn’t be just a simple move. She’d need to leave her grown son, who had been diagnosed four years previously, with a crippling mental illness. Still, his doctors believed his parents’ relocation could be the change he needed to find more independence. And maybe, Joan hoped, it could also be the chance she needed to salvage her broken marriage.
For anyone looking to begin anew or find their footing after children grow up, this memoir can stand as a rallying cry and inspiration. A two-year assignment turned into many more and Call Me Tai Tai recounts Joan’s adventures, from the humbling spiritual visits to Tibet to her discovery of a love for hunting for and haggling over antiques. Armchair travelers will delight in this breathtaking tour of the scenic beauty and culture of Asia, that is as much a chronicle of change and self-discovery. Throughout her journey, Joan provides a heartfelt recounting of both the beauty and the hardships of the land, while introducing a myriad of unforgettable characters as Joan rediscovers herself through these memorable encounters.
Insightful, poignant, and exciting, Call Me Tai Tai is the story of an inquisitive, adventurous heart in a magnificent and magical world. And shows the power that love and faith can have on a family.