Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lisa C. On Lisa See (You can meet them both tomorrow night!)

I always find myself on a plane going across the ocean or at least across the country when I’m reading books by Lisa See. Why, because she never lets me down. I know that I’ll be involved in the story from page one and her books keep me so focused that I don’thave to think about the plane, fellow passengers, or the lack of leg room.
That’s what happened with Shanghai Girls. I purposely saved it for my trip to England. I had a brief stopover in Canada and as we took off again, I was glued to the chapter where May and Pearl and their mom are trying to get out of China before the Japanese find them. BANG – I hear it and then see a FLASH of light and feel the plane drop. Everyone in the cabin yelled. I thought to myself, “OMG we’ve been struck by lightning…..God, I hope the plane doesn’t go down because I want to finish this book.”
That was probably not the reaction of your normal person, but I love reading and once a book grabs me –the world goes away. It was much the same, when I opened Dreams of Joy, the sequel to Shanghai Girls. Dreams debuted at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list on June 19th.
This time I was only flying to Pittsburgh, but had a stopover in Baltimore and was looking forward to reading Dreams of Joy. Once again, the way Lisa See researches the time periods in China and the women in China – always amazes me. I could probably count on one hand how many of my friends even knew about the Great Leap Forward. Sure, we all studied Mao’s Cultural Revolution, but somehow the Great Leap Forward (which was really Great Famine of Death) was missed. 
I found myself sympathizing with Joy’s “mothers” about her choice to move back to China to find her father and her culture, while at the same time fearing for her because of her innocence. But then I realized that Joy’s innocence was also a symbol for the innocence of many Chinese people who endured promises of a rich life through Mao’s brainwashing tactics. Joy symbolized so many Chinese women who believed naively that life would be better and more equal for all under his leadership.That’s what really drew me into the novel. I wanted to know how women managed day to day in a life like that. Lisa See answered all the questions, and readers, be sure to read the notes at the end because she talks about all her interviews including one with the wonderful Chinese journalist and author Xinran whose book The Good Women of China – opened a door for western readers that hadn’t existed before. 

Dreams of Joy was a wonderful sequel to Shanghai Girls. Book clubs will have plenty to discuss. If you are in the Denver area on June 29th, come to the Tattered Cover Book Store on Colfax Ave. at 7:30pm and meet Lisa See for yourself.

-- Lisa Casper – Tattered Cover Events Staff and avid reader.

1 comment:

Gayle LIN said...

I was fortunate enough to attend a luncheon/book signing event with Lisa See. I have read all of her works and react the same way you describe.
I can hardly wait for the movie Snow Flower ....
to get to my town.
I thoroughly enjoyed your article.