J.W. Henley Author of “Migrante” Reveals the Plight of Migrant Workers in Taiwan

Felicia Lin
5 min readDec 16, 2022

Joe Henley is Freelance Writer and Author. The last time we had Joe on Talking Taiwan (in episode 64) we spoke about his book Bu San Bu Si. In this episode I spoke with him about his latest book, Migrante, which has recently been translated into Chinese. Joe shared how the idea for this book about the plight of migrant workers in Taiwan came to him, all the research that was involved, why he’s donating all of his proceeds from the sales of Migrante, and how his band nearly got arrested when they were performing in the Philippines.

[LISTEN to the Complete Episode HERE on APPLE PODCASTS or SPOTIFY]

This episode of Talking Taiwan has been sponsored by NATWA, the North America Taiwanese Women’s Association.

NATWA was founded in 1988, and its mission is:

1. to evoke a sense of self-esteem and enhance women’s dignity,

2. to oppose gender discrimination and promote gender equality,

3. to fully develop women’s potential and encourage their participation in public affairs,

4. to contribute to the advancement of human rights and democratic development in Taiwan,

5. to reach out and work with women’s organizations worldwide to promote peace for all.

To learn more about NATWA visit their website: www.natwa.com

Here’s a little preview of what we talked about in this podcast episode:

  • How Joe got the Reading Times publishing company interested in translating his book Migrante from English into Chinese
  • How the translator of Migrante into Chinese is also the translator of Harry Potter books
  • Why the book cover for the English language version of Migrante is different from the Chinese language version of Migrante
  • The publisher of the original English language of Migrante, Camphor Press gave Joe a complete control over the design of the book cover
  • What Joe had in mind for the cover of the English language version of Migrante when he asked Isa Nthrope, a Manila-based artist and musician to created it
  • The two book cover options that the publishing company offered Joe for the Chinese language version of Migrante
  • What prompted Joe to write Migrante
  • The news reporting that Joe has done about communities of people in the Philippines who live in cemeteries and how this is related to the main character of Migrante
  • The research and various types of migrant workers that Joe interviewed for Migrante
  • Joe estimates that he’s interviewed 70–80 migrant workers during the five years he spent on writing Migrante
  • NGOs that Joe spoke to: Yilan Migrant Fisherman Union and Serve the People Association
  • Joe’s reporting on the “Drug War” in Manila
  • Migrante is a composite work of fiction
  • How Joe “met” the son of Rodrigo Duterte when he was the mayor of Davao
  • The time Joe thought he was going to get arrested and put in jail while performing with his band in the Philippines
  • Joe’s thoughts on the recent election of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Romualdez Marcos Jr.
  • How the journey of many Filipino migrant workers starts in the Philippines
  • Factory workers in Taiwan are covered by the Labor Standards Act but caregivers, and fishermen are not, and what that difference means
  • How Indonesia has made a stand for the rights of its migrant workers that work in Taiwan
  • May God, the only brokerage agency in Taichung, Taiwan that Joe has come across, that actively encourages employers of migrant workers to shoulder all the placement fees, transportation fees and monthly service fees, which are usually passed on to migrant workers
  • The research that Joe did to be able to describe scenes in the book
  • The range of factory dormitory conditions
  • The living conditions of caregivers
  • Joe’s writing process for Migrante
  • Why migrant workers can’t easily quit or leave their jobs
  • Professor Jose Mario de Vega and how Joe consulted with him for feedback on Migrante
  • How Joe hopes that his book will create awareness about the plight of migrant workers in Taiwan
  • Joe is donating all of his proceeds from the sales of Migrante to the Yilan Migrant Fishermen Union and Serve the People Association

Related Links:

Joe Henley’s website: www.jwhenley.com

Joe Henley on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jwhenley

Joe Henley on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jwilliamhenley/

Migrante English Edition– https://www.jwhenley.com/books/migrante

Migrante Mandarin Edition Sales Links:

博客來: https://bit.ly/3z7tSST

金石堂: https://bit.ly/3PvyPdu

讀冊: https://bit.ly/3AVwRiz

MOMO: https://bit.ly/3uPwvpO

時報: https://bit.ly/3PbihYE

Yilan Migrant Fishermen Union: https://fihrmap.nhrm.gov.tw/en-us/?g=mb_content&sid=30

Serve the People Association: https://www.spa.org.tw/

May God: https://may-god.com.tw/service_en

Taiwan, Indonesia planning talks regarding labor cost dispute (an article Taiwan News): https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4082983

Professor Jose Mario de Vega on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mariotheradical

Books by Professor Jose Mario de Vega:

https://app.gogoxpress.com/checkout/248335-pantayong-pananaw-at-paninindigang-pulitikal?fbclid=IwAR1AQqS-DpGWlBCtS88PtTmalyfo7cMcRPJNsrL5bNIQshlmP1E6Gd-4Bo0

https://app.gogoxpress.com/checkout/276864-pravda-ang-digmaang-proxy-sa-ukraina-rusya-laban-sa-nato?fbclid=IwAR1qXHYcu0iq9sF3O2FpL0y0vdthbUING-cyIbsiqVMR743NhlGjLsxuQag

An Interview with Author, Musician, and Journalist Joe Henley (Episode 64): https://talkingtaiwan.com/interview-author-musician-journalist-joe-henley/

Michael Cannings of Camphor Press: Publisher Rescues Notable Books About Taiwan and East Asia (Episode 169): https://talkingtaiwan.com/michael-cannings-of-camphor-press-publisher-rescues-notable-books-about-taiwan-and-east-asia-ep-169/

LISTEN to Episode 216: J.W. Henley Author of “Migrante” Reveals the Plight of Migrant Workers in Taiwan HERE

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Felicia Lin

Felicia Lin is the producer and host of Talking Taiwan, the longest running Taiwan-related podcast, and Golden Crane Podcast Award Winner.