“Freedom Swimmer” and the Immigrant Experience

Our parents swam, their children soar

Between 1958 and 1973, thousands of Chinese youths braved shark infested waters, not to mention severe punishment if they were captured, to make the grueling long swim from Mainland China to Hong Kong. These youths were risking life and limb to escape poverty, social immobility and political persecution, with the hopes of discovering greater opportunity and freedom in the then-British colony. Collectively, they were known in the media as the ‘Freedom Swimmers’. They were our parents.

Join author Wai Chim ‘00 and Broadway performer Telly Leung ‘98 in conversation with journalist Heather Chin ‘02 as they discuss Wai’s latest novel for young adult readers, Freedom Swimmer (Scholastic Press 2021) inspired by their parents’ stories. Learn about the personal connection they both have to the incredible true events that led to this novel and find out how their immigrant backgrounds and Stuyvesant experiences informed and shaped their careers in the Arts.

Freedom Swimmer is available now in hardback and audiobook format from your independent bookseller. You can purchase the book here. The audiobook was narrated by Telly!


Current Stuyvesant students can join this event for free. Please email us at [email protected] for details on how to join.


Wai Chim ’00 is the Chinese-American-Australian author of children’s and young adult fiction, including this year’s Kirkus Prize Finalist, The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling. Born and raised in New York, Wai now lives in Sydney and recently appeared as a contestant on Australian Survivor.

Telly Leung ’98 is a New York City native, Broadway performer, recording artist, producer and theater arts teacher. His Broadway & national touring credits include Aladdin in Disney’s “Aladdin” on Broadway, In Transit, Allegiance (with George Takei & Lea Salonga), Godspell among many others. He has starred in RENT at the Hollywood Bowl while television audiences will remember him as Wes the Warbler on “Glee”.

Heather Chin ’02 is a versatile editor and reporter specializing in the arts, health, food, politics, women’s, and Asian American issues. She has a macro-level curiosity with micro-level, community-impact sensibilities. Her bylines include NBC Asian America, PBS, Village Voice, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Kings County Politics, Brooklyn Reporter, Where Traveler, IN New York, Long Island Pulse, New York Press, Parenting, Weight Watchers Magazine and more.

If you have any questions, reach out to [email protected]. The Stuyvesant High School Alumni Association office is currently unable to take phone calls to our main line. Please email us to schedule a phone call.