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In October 1934, the Chinese Red Army found itself facing annihilation, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of Nationalist soldiers. Rather than surrender, 86,000 Red Army soldiers embarked on an epic flight to safety. Only thirty were women. Their trek would eventually cover 4,000 miles over 370 days. Under enemy fire they crossed highland awamps, climbed Tibetan peaks, scrambled over chain bridges, and trudged through the sands of the western deserts. Fewer than 10,000 of them would survive, but remarkably all of the women would live to tell the tale.

Unbound is an amazing story of love, friendship, and survival written by a new master of adventure narrative.


An award-winning and best-selling author of ten non-fiction books, including Skeletons on the Zahara, which was the subject of a two-hour special documentary on the History Channel and is currently being developed as a feature film in London, Dean King has recently published a book about Mao Zedong’s epic Long March across China in 1934. Fleeing the forces of Chiang Kaishek, Mao led 86,000 Red Army soldiers away from their homes in southeastern China in search of a new revolutionary base. One year, 4,000 miles, and countless battles later, fewer than 5,000 were left. Through the eyes of the resilient women who accompanied Mao, Unbound: A True Story of War, Love, and Survival (Little, Brown, Mar. 24, 2010; tells the story of one of history’s great military treks, of amazing physical and psychological hardship, of bonds formed under fire, of loss and redemption. In 2006 and 2009, King trekked in China and interviewed Long March survivors. The story of his 2009 trek in Northwest Sichuan Province is featured in the April issue of Outside magazine: 



“For me Unbound is about the amazing perseverance of the 30 women who marched 4,000 miles across China on the Long March in 1934, in order to create better lives for themselves, and for all Chinese peasants and women in particular. These women were wounded in battle, fought terrible illnesses, hunger, and exposure and even had to leave babies behind on the trail. They proved that they were as courageous and resilient as the men and that they were capable of contributing to the group in many significant ways. My goal in the book is to take the reader down the trail with them in an incredible trip across China at a momentous time in history.” –Dean

"In UNBOUND Dean King reveals the astonishing true story of this tiny group of revolutionaries. A landmark piece of historical detective work and dramatic storytelling, King's book is an unforgettable tale of love, friendship, and survival against all odds." --Sheryl Baldwin, PhD, Virginia Chapters Liaison, US-China People's Friendship Association


“King, the best-selling author of Skeletons on the Zahara (another story of endurance), has done brilliant work bringing the march to life with a plethora of vivid, well-researched details. (Many of those details came from King’s travels on the Red Army’s trail, as well as interviews with five women and two men who survived the march.) . . . . Unbound is an authoritative account of the Long March, but its evocations of the marchers’ experiences will linger long after the historical details slip from readers’ memories.”

—Doug Childers, Richmond Times-Dispatch


“The Long March, as it came to be known, is amazing enough in itself. Within that story, though, is an even more incredible one. Dean King's book, Unbound: A True Story of War, Love and Survival,  focuses on the 30 women who were an integral part of that march. . . .

King’s book is an exhaustive and excellent study of these women and their hard road to equality and freedom. He was able to build on the research of others, like American journalists like Helen Foster Snow and Alice Smedley, who were there with the communists on their trek. He also was able, amazingly, to interview five women and two men who were veterans of the Long March. One of them, 93-year-old Wang Quanyuan, spent two days with King in 2006, three years before her death. Unbound is a relentless, gripping story of superhuman endurance, of a refusal to accept defeat. It is hard to believe the Long March happened in the 1930s. The tenacity and superhuman feats often read like something out of Greek mythology. King's most-recent book, Skeletons on the Zahara, documented the suffering of shipwrecked American sailors enslaved by Arabs in North Africa. Their tribulations were many, but the women of Unbound might have asked, ‘You call that a rough trip?’” —Howard Owen, Free Lance-Star/


“A terrific feminist story and a significant document of this incredible human feat.”



“A very human account of . . . this extraordinary story.” –Vanessa Bush, Booklist


“China has always been a mysterious and secretive empire, but UNBOUND peels back the curtain to reveal a story of strength and survival.” —BookPage


“King gets to the heart of one of history’s greatest adventures. He captures the blood, guts and occasional glory of the Chinese Revolution. This is a remarkable tale, by turns thrilling, inspiring and heartbreaking. It’s a rattling good read.”

            —Ed Jocelyn, co-author of The Long March 


“A genuine and moving account of the women who went on the Long March…. Vivid, flowing…enjoyable.”

—Lily Lee, editor-in-chief of the Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women  


“Dean King has produced a highly readable, alive and touching story…. Unbound will appeal to every reader who likes history that is exciting, accessible and full of the stories of people who perform extraordinary acts of heroism and endurance. How wonderful that . . . Chinese history is brought to us in such a riveting and personal way.”

—Helen Praeger Young, author of Choosing Revolution


“Telling the story of world-changing events from the perspective of poor and forgotten women, Dean King offers us a rare and profound kind of history. By portraying the unimaginable struggles of the Great March, King helps explain much of the tortured history of China that followed.”

—Edward L. Ayers, author of In the Presence of Mine Enemies:  Civil War in the Heart of America, winner of the Bancroft Prize.


“[Unbound]’s a fascinating window into women’s lives in prewar China—and mind-blowing to imagine that Communism offered their first taste of gender-equity.”

—Constance Costas, Richmond editor, skirt!  


Outside Magazine, April: In the Land of the Human-Sucking Bogs

Retracing Mao Zedong's epic 1934 Long March through the Snowy Mountains of China’s Sichuan province,  DEAN KING gains a new respect for the few who survived—and discovers a rugged wilderness ripe for modern adventure.

 “King, more than any other writer, recaptures the drama and flavor of this momentous time in Chinese history. . . .  Unbound is a must read for any student of modern Chinese history and ranks with Red Star Over China as one of the classic narratives of the early days of the CCP.” 

—Daniel A. Metraux, professor of Asian Studies at Mary Baldwin College      


“Dean King's book is deeply researched, drawing from first-person accounts of survivors, Chinese historians and a range of historical scholarship, much of it never before translated into English...Never idealizing the story of the soldiers, Unbound renders, with thrilling precision, their fear and uncertainty.”

The New Haven Advocate



“Thirty of the Long Marchers were females, and in Unbound: A True Story of War, Love, and Survival, journalist Dean King provides an often riveting account of their journey through snowy mountains and high-altitude swamps.” 

The Oregonian