Shelter from the Storm

If old Shanghai were not just a city, but a collection of extraordinary stories, few could match those of the desperately needy refugees who flocked to its open port. Some came by boat, some by train; a group of several hundred White Russians even completed the 3,000-kilometer journey across Xinjiang on foot. But what they all had in common was that they had nowhere else to go.

Marcia Reynders Ristaino's aptly named book, Port of Last Resort (Stanford University Press; 380 pages) traces the story of two of the communities—the White Russians and Jews—that gave the city its...

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