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She was born the daughter of a Manchu prince in Beijing in 1907. Later, as she grew up in Japan, she earned notoriety for her flamboyant challenges to gender roles and her military exploits as a princess-spy. Even today Yoshiko Kawashima still stokes controversy, and Phyllis Birnbaum’s new biography — “Manchu Princess, Japanese Spy: The Story of Kawashima Yoshiko, the Cross-Dressing Spy Who Commanded Her Own Army” — explains why.

In a recent interview with The Japan Times Birnbaum reflected on her time researching the infamous princess-spy.

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