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Inspired Correspondent
Bethanne
Posts: 495
Registered: ‎10-24-2008

Lisa See, June 8-12

[ Edited ]

Let us properly welcome Lisa See to Center Stage; she's here to talk about her latest novel Shanghai Girls, but I'm sure many of us will want to bring up questions and comments about her previous novels as well. (Moderator's note: If you haven't read Shanghai Girls yet, you are in for a real treat.)

 

See's "official" bio: Lisa See is the New York Times bestselling author of Shanghai Girls, Peony in LoveSnow Flower and the Secret FanFlower Net (an Edgar Award nominee), The Interior, and Dragon Bones, as well as the critically acclaimed memoir On Gold Mountain. The Organization of Chinese American Women named her the 2001 National Woman of the Year. She lives in Los Angeles. Visit her website at http://www.lisasee.com/.

 

There's so much more to Lisa See than those four sentences convey. Her Chinese great-grandfather Fong See is credited with founding China City in Los Angeles; her mother Carolyn See is an acclaimed novelist and critic; and Lisa See herself has written fiction, nonfiction, and even the libretto for an opera based upon her book On Gold Mountain. 

Message Edited by PaulH on 06-08-2009 09:30 AM
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Check out this week's Center Stage discussion!

See all upcoming discussions!

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Wordsmith
kiakar
Posts: 3,435
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Lisa See, June 8-12

It will be so nice to hear from you again. I was in the last two book clubs on B&N and love your books. I also appreciate you putting me  on your acknowledgement page of your new book due to our discussion we had about sisters for your coming up book. And I have read the book and just adore it. I honestly believe you get ten times better with every book you write. You   certainly have captured the essense of sisterly love Lisa. I can certainly vouch for that since I had a older sister and still have a younger sister. My older sister died going on two years ago, will be two years this November. I know what a joy it is to share life with a sister but to loose one, you hurt for months as if your heart will break and then there is always a piece of you missing. The memories are getting warmer everyday, that is the hurt is not as severe as it was.  That is the memories are getting sweeter as each day goes by. As we got older, we weren't that close because of distant miles between us and our family styles were so different.  But we were always there for each other, we would call each other and confine in each other, the bad news and the good.  When I heard of the horrific news of her cancer that returned after about seven years and this time , it had gone too far to stop before she found out, I packed my bags and went up to where she lived and I stayed off and on with her until her death.  It meant alot to me to read this wonderful book about two sisters who stuck together and loved each other so very much and it was a comfort knowing I had a small part in helping to write this great book. I am proud of my name being in your wonderful book  and I tell everyone about it and also about they will be missing a great book if they do not read it.  Also I always read my booklist in my newspaper and your book is listed as No. 5 in the best fiction section. That is really good since its just came out.  I can't wait until we start talking about this great book.   Linda W. Huff
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Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Lisa See, June 8-12

Hi Lisa!

 

I have about 50 pages left to read in Shanghai Girls, so I'll talk about it tomorrow...

 

Meanwhile, I was wondering if you have many crossover readers within the books you have written?  Do the people who read your historical fiction books also read your thrillers, and vice versa?  I am not a thriller person myself, but wondered if because you are the author of both types of books, if that might lead to some crossover reading.

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
Inspired Contributor
Linda10
Posts: 81
Registered: ‎10-02-2007

Re: Lisa See, June 8-12

Welcome, Lisa!

 

Thank you for being here!  I just finished reading "Shanghai Girls" last night and am sorry to admit that it's the first book of yours that I've read.  I can certainly say it won't be the last!  In fact, after reading it, it makes me want to read more about your background as well, especially "On Gold Mountain."  Judging by the photograph, you do not look Chinese at all!  What exactly is your heritage?

 

Fozzie posted that you have written thrillers as well.  I have never heard that before.  Could you please give us a few of the titles?

 

As for the story line itself of "Shanghai Girls," I thought the relationship between the two sisters was very realistic.  Although I have two brothers and no sister, myself, I found myself wondering if that's how my relationship would have been with my sister had I had one.  Especially in the second-to-last chapter, where Pearl and May have their confrontation, as I was reading I wondered if that's what would happen if I had a similar situation with one of my brothers.  Or is this sister-sister bond unique?  After reading Kiakar's post about her own sister, I'm thinking that there really is nothing quite like that relationship.  Do you have a sister(s)?  If so, did you use your own personal life experiences to help you develop each sister's personality plus their relationship to each other?

 

I guess that's enough for now.  I'll just end by saying I thought "Shanghai Girls" was a wonderful read.  It held my interest all throughout the book, a never-a-dull-moment kind of book.  Thank you!

 

Author
Lisa_See
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Registered: ‎05-19-2009
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Re: Lisa See, June 8-12

First, welcome everyone!  I'm so happy to be doing another on-line event with B&N.  For those readers who haven't done this with me before, you can see that I was really helped by the women in the B&N for Peony in Love. Our moderator didn't show up, so at some point we shifted from talking about that book to talking about what I was working on. That book became Shanghai Girls.  We talked about the differences between Fate, Fortune, and Destiny.  Those three ideas became central to Shanghai Girls and even became the names of the three parts of the novel. So thank you to Kiakar and the others who helped with all of that.

 

Kiakar has also touched on what I consider to be the emotional heart of the novel -- the sense of loss we all feel for people and places who disappear from us.  I have experienced this myself. It can happen when you're young. It can wait until you're much older. But no matter what, it will happen.  So Pearl and May lose their home in China and their parents.  But I personally have lost the people on the Chinese side of my family who made me who I am, who have supported and loved me, and who gave me so many stories. Also, so many of the places that I knew as a girl when I visited the family in Chinatown are gone now -- completely wiped off the map.  Writing Shanghai Girls allowed me to be with the people and to visit the places again.

 

All of that was a long winded way of syaing thank you to everyone for joining in today and thank you to those people in the last B&N book club who helped me with Shanghai Girls.

Author
Lisa_See
Posts: 35
Registered: ‎05-19-2009
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Re: Lisa See, June 8-12

Hi, Laura,

 

It's a funny thing. Some people only like the mysteries. Some people only like On Gold Mountain, the non-fiction book about my family.  Some people think I've only written one book -- Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.  And some people read everything.  But I think the mystery readers are the most lyal to the genre.  They like mysteries and that's it.

Author
Lisa_See
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Registered: ‎05-19-2009
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Re: Lisa See, June 8-12

I didn't realize in my first message that we were using actual names.  So, hi, Linda!!!
Author
Lisa_See
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Re: Lisa See, June 8-12

Linda,

 

Thanks for joining in. I'm thrilled and honored that Shanghai Girls is the first book of mine that you've read.  You've asked lots of big questions, so I'll try to touch on all of them.  Each one ould probably become a new thread, so I'll be brief to start.

 

I'm part Chinese. My great-great-grandfather came to this country to work on the building of the transcontinetal railroad. My great-grandfather came and stayed. He had four wives and two families.  I'm descended from the first family.  That wife was a Caucasian woman.  It was against the law in California for Chinese and Caucasians to marry until 1948. (In some states until 1965.)  They went to a lawyer who drew up a contract between two people as though they were forming a partnership.  Today I have about 400 people in my family here in Los Angeles.  There are a dozen who look like me, the majority are still full Chinese, ans then there's a spectrum in between.  What I'm saying is that I grew up in a very traditional Chinese American family.

 

The thrillers I've written are Flower Net, The Interior, and Dragon Bones.  They are great fun, if I do say so myself.

 

I'm so glad you brought up sisters. Instead of answering your questions about that, I'd like to ask the group to share their thoughts about sisters.  What makes the sister relationship special? What's the difference between actual sisters and friends who are just like sisters?  Do you have friends who are like sisters of the heart?  Is there anything your actual sister could do that would cause an irrevocable break?

Scribe
vivico1
Posts: 3,456
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Lisa See, June 8-12

LISA!!!

It is sooo good to have you back in here! And yes, to have been in the last club, Peony in Love and talk about the things we did as you were formulating this book was really a great experience. And am I proud to see my name in your book, well heck yes hehe, what a treat! And in a book of this caliber, its totally awesome! I just loved this book so much. It moved me in so many ways. You really know how to work our emotions in a book, what a gift! I will be looking for a sequel you know.

 

Hey, I didn't even know you did thrillers, now I am going to have to get those too. I love thrillers. I have bought Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and as soon as I finish the book I am reading now, that is my next one.

 

The question you ask about sisters and friends you think of as sisters, well let's see. Unfortunately, there are things that can cause an irrevocable break with a sister. I had this happen a long time ago with my older sister. It is not a small thing at all but a major thing, to cause such a break. But you know something that I have thought of over the years about it too? I don't think we ever bonded as sisters. I don't think there was much really bonding within my family, there was no bonding with our mother, and she has even come to admit that herself, that she just doesn't feel any bond for us. So maybe that is why my sister and I didn't bond either. For whatever reason we didn't or couldn't, I have come to believe that that is the reason that what she did to me, could even occur, that if we had bonded as sisters, maybe that would have been an impossible thing for her to even imagine doing!

 

I hear about sisters who are the best friends for life and I think that is just incredible and so awesome. In Shanghai girls, I kept waiting for May to turn on Pearl, over a decision they made, (I won't say here, for those reading, I sure don't want to spoil any of this book for them but you can probably guess what). I won't even say if that happens or what does but I did wonder if that grew out of thinking, how would this part play out in my family, and I know the answer! I only had that one sister, well she is still alive out there somewhere, so I have made family from my friends. I have bonded with them in ways I never have had in my family. I have even told one girlfriend, "you are the sister I never had!" She said, I love you too and kind of laughed and said, but you do have a sister, I can't be the one you never had lol. I looked her in the eyes, and said, YOU are the sister I never had! She thought for a moment, she knows the whole story (ask me sometime and i will tell you :smileywink: ) and she understood what I meant then, and just hugged me. So what is the difference between special friends and real sisters? To me, I would have to say, its who you can bond with, who you can hold in your heart, who is a part of your heart that without them, you are not really completely you. Who can you bond with. I think love is that way in general really, be it the love of a sister, a mother, a husband or wife or a child. Who are you bonded with that if they left of were taken out of your life, would leave that hole inside your heart where the bond was ripped away.

 

OK, good to see you Lisa. I love this book! And Kiakar and Fozzie, good to see you two too! :smileyhappy: I think Cindersue will be drop by to say hello this week too. Good books and good friends, what more can one ask? :smileywink:

 

Vivian

 


Lisa_See wrote:

Linda,

 

Thanks for joining in. I'm thrilled and honored that Shanghai Girls is the first book of mine that you've read. You've asked lots of big questions, so I'll try to touch on all of them. Each one ould probably become a new thread, so I'll be brief to start.

 

I'm part Chinese. My great-great-grandfather came to this country to work on the building of the transcontinetal railroad. My great-grandfather came and stayed. He had four wives and two families. I'm descended from the first family. That wife was a Caucasian woman. It was against the law in California for Chinese and Caucasians to marry until 1948. (In some states until 1965.) They went to a lawyer who drew up a contract between two people as though they were forming a partnership. Today I have about 400 people in my family here in Los Angeles. There are a dozen who look like me, the majority are still full Chinese, ans then there's a spectrum in between. What I'm saying is that I grew up in a very traditional Chinese American family.

 

The thrillers I've written are Flower Net, The Interior, and Dragon Bones. They are great fun, if I do say so myself.

 

I'm so glad you brought up sisters. Instead of answering your questions about that, I'd like to ask the group to share their thoughts about sisters. What makes the sister relationship special? What's the difference between actual sisters and friends who are just like sisters? Do you have friends who are like sisters of the heart? Is there anything your actual sister could do that would cause an irrevocable break?


 

 

Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
Distinguished Bibliophile
pen21
Posts: 3,653
Registered: ‎03-23-2009
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Re: Lisa See, June 8-12

Welcome Lisa! I loved your book!

 

I also need to thank Vivian for recommending your books on a Community Room thread here at the Barnes and Noble site.

 

I have now read 3 of your books (Shanghai Girls, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love). Each book is so unique. They each explore different types of relationships. I appreciate the research you have done. I enjoy a novel that blends history into a good story. I have already recommended to several friends who I know would enjoy them.

 

I am also a mystery reader. So I will definitely check out your mysteries.

 

Luanne

 

 

Inspired Contributor
Linda10
Posts: 81
Registered: ‎10-02-2007
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Re: Lisa See, June 8-12

Hello again, Lisa!

 

I had some questions as I was reading your book.  The biggest one was what exactly is the definition of "lo fan"?  I know it came up a lot during the story.  I even Googled the term on-line but never got a satisfactory definition.  At best, it was described to mean any foreigner, and usually used in a derogatory fashion.  I'm not so sure that fit in my mind as I continued to read.  Could you shed a little more insight into that term for me?

 

Thank you.

 

Wordsmith
Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Lisa See, June 8-12 - SPOILER FOR SHANGHAI GIRLS

SPOILER FOR SHANGHAI GIRLS 

 

Hi Linda and Vivian!

 

Lisa, I finished Shanghai Girls yesterday and found it has given me a lot to think about.  One thing I am pondering is whether or not the book is a tragedy.  I found this definition of tragedy on answers.com:

 

A drama or literary work in which the main character is brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow, especially as a consequence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances.

 

Pearl, the main character, certainly suffers extreme sorrow, but is able to cope with unfavorable circumstances.  She would not be alive if she couldn't. 

 

I do find myself wondering if Pearl has a tragic flaw, that of being a victim, as May claims.  I thought it was a great technique that you used during the last 15 pages of the book, when you had May recount some of the events of the sisters' lives from May's point of view.  I hope May's comments made Pearl think differently about their lives because her comments caused me to rethink many of my beliefs that I had formed about their lives which had been heavily influenced by Pearl as the narrator, of course.

 

I think I have concluded that Pearl is a tragic heroine with a tragic flaw of being a victim.  However, I don't think she is going to let that flaw have as much influence for the rest of her life as it has had previously.  At the end, we see Pearl taking charge of her life, her destiny. 

 

I immediately wondered, upon finishing the book, if there would be a sequel.  After thinking about it, I have decided that there is no need for a sequel because I feel confident in concluding that Pearl will find Joy and bring her home.

 

I didn't included any questions here, but would welcome comments from everyone.

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
Wordsmith
Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Lisa See, June 8-12


Lisa_See wrote:

I'm so glad you brought up sisters. Instead of answering your questions about that, I'd like to ask the group to share their thoughts about sisters.  What makes the sister relationship special? What's the difference between actual sisters and friends who are just like sisters?  Do you have friends who are like sisters of the heart?  Is there anything your actual sister could do that would cause an irrevocable break?


I have two younger sisters, but one is only 20 months younger so we grew up "as equals," with both of us being allowed to do things at the same time.  My mother has three older sisters.  My sisters and I grew up seeing them being driven apart, by what, we don't know, and some not speaking to others, etc.  My sisters and I said we would not let that happen to us. 

 

Even though my sisters and I have different lives and interests now, we still share a common history, and we are still building our common history every time we interact, in person or by phone or e-mail.  While there amy be a thing or two my sisters could to that could cause an irrevocable break, I can't imagine it ever happening.

 

A few of my sorority sisters are friends that are sisters of the heart.  We share a common bond for life via the sorority.

 

 

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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Fozzie
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Re: Lisa See, June 8-12

Lisa,

 

What types of book(s) are you planning to write in the future?  Will you continue with historical fiction, go back to mysteries, or something else?  Maybe you don't know...

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
New User
DiamondLightfoot13
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎04-29-2009

Re: Lisa See, June 8-12

I absolutely LOVED Shanghai Girls and passed my copy along to my sister in law. I told her it was a must read. I've had fun recommending it to just about anyone who will listen.

 

The relationship between Pearl and May rings true in so many ways. I have several sisters and a different relationship with each of them. They each see me differently, too. Your characterizations are terrific.

 

I'll save questions for a bit until I've read through more of the posts, but I wanted to tell you it's an amazing book.

 

Scribe
vivico1
Posts: 3,456
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Lisa See, June 8-12 - SPOILER FOR SHANGHAI GIRLS

Hey Laura (Fozzie),

I can't help but ask you about something because I really wished B&N would have done this book as a discussion club for all of us instead of one week, and also I know that Lisa will answer your questions. :smileywink:

 

I have a question about where you say:

"I think I have concluded that Pearl is a tragic heroine with a tragic flaw of being a victim. However, I don't think she is going to let that flaw have as much influence for the rest of her life as it has had previously. At the end, we see Pearl taking charge of her life, her destiny."


First I am going to have to go back and reread the last part, which will be a pleasure anyway because I read the book over a month ago, but I am interested in the idea that being a victim is a flaw. I can not remember some of the things in the last part right now but I do remember her being a victim of soldiers, of the American system on the island and on land. She was a victim of what the men expected of her, in both her culture and the American culture. She was really up against a lot of odds, but also she didn't see everything through a clear glass either about her sister or how her parents really felt about both of them. Laura, do you see being a victim in general, such as the first ways I mention here, as a flaw? Or do you mean that maybe she allowed herself to be a victim in many ways, because of her own views of the world or how she perceived her treatment by certain people? We can be truly victimized and we can also see ourselves as being victimized when we are not. You say, you don't see that flaw as having much influence over her life in the future tho. It is interesting to see being a victim as a flaw, and maybe May said that to her and I am not remembering,(another good reason for a second read lol). Can you elaborate on what you mean here, ya got me curious girl! :smileywink: I am missing something at the moment or we got us a good debate lol.

 

As for a sequel, I am just the opposite, I think this book cries for a sequel! I wanted to go on that journey with her so so much and there is so much there to be explored that I don't want it to stop here.

 

Lisa, I hope you won't mind the indulgence of me here, in asking another poster something instead of directing all my questions to you since we have you for such a short time but this is really intriguing to me and I may have to put down what I am reading now and go back and read the last part of the book again lol.

 

Thanks to both of you on this.

Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
Author
Lisa_See
Posts: 35
Registered: ‎05-19-2009
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Re: Lisa See, June 8-12

Hi, Vivian!!!  It's great to "see" you too.  This is a big reuniting of the old gang.  (With a big welcome to everyone new who will become part of our gang.)

 

I should tell everyone that I'm on book tour right now. This week I'm in the San Francisco Bay area.  Every day I go about 100 miles in each direction, but San Francisco is the hub.  I'll be writing wheneve I'm in my hotel room.  And I have to say that while it's a very pretty hotel, it's a kind of dreary and small room. 

 

OK, so sisters!  I thought that what you brought up about bonding is very interesting and I haven't had anyone put it quite like that before.  I think that we don't have any choice with our sisters.  We either have them or we don't. We either like or love each other or we don't.  But friends are people we pick or who chose us.  We're friends because we want to be friends, not because we were born that way.  These are the people I consider to be sisters in heart.  But sisters can have a special bond that is much deeper than what happs between friends.  As sisters, we share the same memories of our childhoods.  This becomes very important later in life when the older generation -- mother and father, aunts and uncles -- start to age and die. Pretty soon there aren't many people left who can remember the past -- for good and bad -- with you.  Your sister is the person who knew you when and who knew what you came from.

 

That's not all of my thoughts about sisters. I have more, but I think I'll see what other people have written.  And if there's nothing more about sisters today, then I'll add some new thoughts tomorrow.

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Lisa_See
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Re: Lisa See, June 8-12

Welcome, Luanne!

 

Thank your for your kind words about my books.  You've caught exacty what I'm trying to do with my books. I love the history, true.  But what I'm really writing about are relationships and emotions.

 

Oh, and thank you for recommending my books to your friends. That's so in the spirit of my books -- sharing with other women -- don't you think?

 

Lisa

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Lisa_See
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Re: Lisa See, June 8-12

Lo fan literally means "white ghost."  It's a Cantonese expression used to describe foreigners. When I was a little girl visiting my grandparents in Chinatown, people used to refer to me as the lo fan nu'er -- the white ghost girl.  In general it's derogatory, but it can also be used with condescension or even great affection.
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Lisa_See
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Re: Lisa See, June 8-12 - SPOILER FOR SHANGHAI GIRLS

Welcome, Linda.  Good to see you again too!

 

I agree that Pearl considers herself a victim, but I don't believe that that's her tragic flaw. I think her tragic flaw is that she can't believe or trusts that anyone loves her.  And May certainly has a tragic flaw -- she's so self-centered.

 

One thing that's interesting about using a first person narrative is that you only have that one person -- in this case, Pearl -- to tell us what she's seeing, feeling, and experiencing.  She's what's called an unreliable narrator.  I hope that readers have already come to some of the conclusions that May has before she speaks them at the end. (There are some clues along the way: for example, the argument that the sisters have the night that China City opens when May points out that she couldn't get Pearl to cross the street.) On the other hand, when my mom read the book she had a very different interpretation about the final argument. She didn't believe May. She thought May was saying those things to save her own skin.

 

There is going to be a sequel.  My publisher really wants me to write it.  I've done the research already, but I haven't started to write yet.  But I hadn't intended to write a sequel. I liked that the book was open-ended and unresolved, because that's how life often -- usually! -- is.

 

Lisa