News / USA

    Writer Takes Trans-Pacific Journey in New Novel

    Writer Takes Trans-Pacific Journey in New Novel
    Writer Takes Trans-Pacific Journey in New Novel

    Multimedia

    Audio

    The writer Lisa See takes readers on a trans-Pacific journey in her latest novel, Dreams of Joy.

    The book is a sequel to See's 2009 novel Shanghai Girls, which tells the story of two sisters, Pearl and May, who live through the turbulence of 1930s China and escape the Japanese invasion and occupation of Shanghai.  They reach Los Angeles Chinatown, where restrictions on immigration have led to networks of fictitious relationships, with so-called "paper sons" claiming the right to immigrate based on forged documents.

    The relationships often created real bonds as the immigrants formed family groups and struggled to survive in a new country.

    The success of China's communists in 1949 created a crisis for some Chinese Americans.  Many were hostile to the new government, but See says others, especially among the young, were sympathetic.  

    “Actually, there were a lot of Chinese going back to the People's Republic of China at that time, 90,000 in one year from Fukien [Fujian] Province alone," noted See.  "But also a lot of other people who weren't Chinese, who were going to China kind of inspired by what was going on there, or even hoping to start a business.”

    Once there, it was not easy to get out, and some who returned to China, both Chinese and Westerners, became victims of the political turmoil.

    In the late 1950s, the government under Chairman Mao Zedong imposed sweeping changes that wreaked economic havoc.

    This is the backdrop for See's story, as Joy, the young Chinese American woman, returns to a homeland she has never known against her family's wishes, and her Chinese-born mother, Pearl, follows her.

     

    “Her delicate eyebrows, pretty nose and full lips register absolute astonishment at seeing me.  Her eyes widen and become even brighter.  Then I see not happiness, sadness or even anger that I'm here.  It's worse than any of those.  The cool shadows of indifference fall over her features.  She stares at me but doesn't say a word.”

    Lisa See has written several best-selling novels with Chinese-related themes. She says those themes have special appeal for her.

    “I'm part Chinese.  Your listeners can't see me, but I have red hair and freckles, so I don't look very Chinese, but I did grow up in a very traditional Chinese American family.  I live in Los Angeles and today in Los Angeles, I have about 400 relatives, of which the majority of them are still full Chinese, and  then there's this spectrum with me on one end - there are about a dozen that look like me - but this spectrum all the way up to the majority being full Chinese,” noted See.

    See says she is also part Irish and that like most Americans, she celebrates her ethnic heritage.

    “I think all of us here in the United States, we all had someone in our families who was brave enough, scared enough, dumb enough, crazy enough to leave their home country to come here," added See.  "But there is a still a part of us that is tied to our original homeland, and we all share in that feeling no matter where you came from.”

    See is already working on her next book.  It concerns a nearly forgotten part of Chinese American culture from the 1920s through the 1940s, when Asian American entertainers performed at night clubs in cities like New York and San Francisco, popularly known as the Chop Suey Circuit, named after the Chinese dish that became a standard in American Chinese restaurants.  

    She says the entertainers were billed as Asian American versions of popular singers and dancers of the day.

    “It's like the Chinese Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the Chinese Sophie Tucker, the Chinese Frank Sinatra, the Chinese Bing Crosby," See explained.  "They all kind of were billed that way because that was so immediately recognizable to a customer.”

    See says that novel will offer yet another glimpse of the Chinese American experience.

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora