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-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    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.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.