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About Lisa See
Lisa See’s new novel, The Island of Sea Women, is about the free-diving women of South Korea’s Jeju Island. Booklist called The Island of Sea Women “stupendous… enthralling…and engrossing.” Jodi Picoult has given her praise: “Lisa See excels at mining the intersection of family, friendship and history, and in her newest novel, she reaches new depths exploring the matrifocal haenyeo society in Korea, caught between tradition and modernization. This novel spans wars and generations, but at its heart is a beautifully rendered story of two women whose individual choices become inextricably tangled.” Independent booksellers honored the novel by selecting it as an Indie Next pick, while Barnes & Noble chose the novel for its nationwide March 2019 Book Club. It became an Instant New York Times bestseller.
Ms. See is the New York Times bestselling author of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony in Love, Shanghai Girls, China Dolls, and Dreams of Joy, which debuted at #1. She is also the author of On Gold Mountain, which tells the story of her Chinese American family’s settlement in Los Angeles. Ms. See has also written a mystery series that takes place in China. Her books have been published in 39 languages. See was the recipient of the Golden Spike Award from the Chinese Historical Association of Southern California and the History Maker’s Award from the Chinese American Museum. She was also named National Woman of the Year by the Organization of Chinese American Women.
Ms. See wrote the libretto for Los Angeles Opera based on On Gold Mountain, which premiered in June 2000. That same year, she also curated the exhibition On Gold Mountain: A Chinese American Experience at the Autry Museum. Ms. See then helped develop and curate the Family Discovery Gallery at the Autry Museum, an interactive space for children and their families that focused on Lisa’s bi-racial, bi-cultural family. The installation was up for twelve years. In 2003, she curated the inaugural exhibition—a retrospective of artist Tyrus Wong—for the grand opening of the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles. In addition, she designed a walking tour of L.A.’s Chinatown and wrote the companion guidebook for Angels Walk L.A. to celebrate the opening of the MTA’s Chinatown station. As a longtime trustee on the University of California Press Foundation, she endowed the Lisa See Endowment Fund in Southern California History and Culture.
You can learn more about her at www.LisaSee.com. You can also follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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“A mesmerizing new historical novel” (O, The Oprah Magazine) from Lisa See, the bestselling author of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, about female friendship and devastating family secrets on a small Korean island.
Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls living on the Korean island of Jeju, are best friends who come from very different backgrounds. When they are old enough, they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective, led by Young-sook’s mother. As the girls take up their positions as baby divers, they know they are beginning a life of excitement and responsibility—but also danger.
Despite their love for each other, Mi-ja and Young-sook find it impossible to ignore their differences. The Island of Sea Women takes place over many decades, beginning during a period of Japanese colonialism in the 1930s and 1940s, followed by World War II, the Korean War, through the era of cell phones and wet suits for the women divers. Throughout this time, the residents of Jeju find themselves caught between warring empires. Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator. Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother’s position leading the divers in their village. Little do the two friends know that forces outside their control will push their friendship to the breaking point.
“This vivid…thoughtful and empathetic” novel (The New York Times Book Review) illuminates a world turned upside down, one where the women are in charge and the men take care of the children. “A wonderful ode to a truly singular group of women” (Publishers Weekly), The Island of Sea Women is a “beautiful story…about the endurance of friendship when it’s pushed to its limits, and you…will love it” (Cosmopolitan).
In their remote mountain village, Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. For the Akha people, ensconced in ritual and routine, life goes on as it has for generations—until a stranger appears at the village gate in a jeep, the first automobile any of the villagers has ever seen.
The stranger’s arrival marks the first entrance of the modern world in the lives of the Akha people. Slowly, Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, begins to reject the customs that shaped her early life. When she has a baby out of wedlock—conceived with a man her parents consider a poor choice—she rejects the tradition that would compel her to give the child over to be killed, and instead leaves her, wrapped in a blanket with a tea cake tucked in its folds, near an orphanage in a nearby city.
As Li-yan comes into herself, leaving her insular village for an education, a business, and city life, her daughter, Haley, is raised in California by loving adoptive parents. Despite her privileged childhood, Haley wonders about her origins. Across the ocean Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. Over the course of years, each searches for meaning in the study of Pu’er, the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for centuries.
A powerful story about circumstances, culture, and distance, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane paints an unforgettable portrait of a little known region and its people and celebrates the bond of family.
In nineteenth-century China, when wives and daughters were foot-bound and lived in almost total seclusion, the women in one remote Hunan county developed their own secret code for communication: nu shu (“women’s writing”). Some girls were paired with laotongs, “old sames,” in emotional matches that lasted throughout their lives. They painted letters on fans, embroidered messages on handkerchiefs, and composed stories, thereby reaching out of their isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.
With the arrival of a silk fan on which Snow Flower has composed for Lily a poem of introduction in nu shu, their friendship is sealed and they become “old sames” at the tender age of seven. As the years pass, through famine and rebellion, they reflect upon their arranged marriages, loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their lifelong friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a brilliantly realistic journey back to an era of Chinese history that is as deeply moving as it is sorrowful. With the period detail and deep resonance of Memoirs of a Geisha, this lyrical and emotionally charged novel delves into one of the most mysterious of human relationships: female friendship.
BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Lisa See's Peony in Love.
BONUS: This edition contains a Shanghai Girls discussion guide and an excerpt from Lisa See's Dreams of Joy.
In 1937, Shanghai is the Paris of Asia, a city of great wealth and glamour, the home of millionaires and beggars, gangsters and gamblers, patriots and revolutionaries, artists and warlords. Thanks to the financial security and material comforts provided by their father’s prosperous rickshaw business, twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Though both sisters wave off authority and tradition, they couldn’t be more different: Pearl is a Dragon sign, strong and stubborn, while May is a true Sheep, adorable and placid. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree . . . until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from California to find Chinese brides.
As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, one that will take them through the Chinese countryside, in and out of the clutch of brutal soldiers, and across the Pacific to the shores of America. In Los Angeles they begin a fresh chapter, trying to find love with the strangers they have married, brushing against the seduction of Hollywood, and striving to embrace American life even as they fight against discrimination, brave Communist witch hunts, and find themselves hemmed in by Chinatown’s old ways and rules.
At its heart, Shanghai Girls is a story of sisters: Pearl and May are inseparable best friends who share hopes, dreams, and a deep connection, but like sisters everywhere they also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. They love each other, but each knows exactly where to drive the knife to hurt the other the most. Along the way they face terrible sacrifices, make impossible choices, and confront a devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel hold fast to who they are: Shanghai girls.
Praise for Shanghai Girls
“A buoyant and lustrous paean to the bonds of sisterhood.”–Booklist
“A rich work . . . as compulsively readable as it is an enlightening journey.”—Denver Post
In her most powerful novel yet, acclaimed author Lisa See returns to the story of sisters Pearl and May from Shanghai Girls, and Pearl’s strong-willed nineteen-year-old daughter, Joy. Reeling from newly uncovered family secrets, Joy runs away to Shanghai in early 1957 to find her birth father—the artist Z.G. Li, with whom both May and Pearl were once in love. Dazzled by him, and blinded by idealism and defiance, Joy throws herself into the New Society of Red China, heedless of the dangers in the Communist regime. Devastated by Joy’s flight and terrified for her safety, Pearl is determined to save her daughter, no matter the personal cost. From the crowded city to remote villages, Pearl confronts old demons and almost insurmountable challenges as she follows Joy, hoping for reconciliation. Yet even as Joy’s and Pearl’s separate journeys converge, one of the most tragic episodes in China’s history threatens their very lives.
BONUS: This edition contains a Dreams of Joy discussion guide.
Praise for Dreams of Joy
“[Lisa] See is a gifted historical novelist. . . . The real love story, the one that’s artfully shown, is between mother and daughter, and aunt and daughter, as both of the women who had a part in making Joy return to China come to her rescue. . . . [In Dreams of Joy,] there are no clear heroes or villains, just people who often take wrong turns to their own detriment but for the good of the story, leading to greater strength of character and more durable relationships.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“A heartwarming story of heroic love between a mother and daughter . . . No writer has better captured the voice and heart of Chinese culture.”—Bookreporter
“Once again, See’s research feels impeccable, and she has created an authentic, visually arresting world.”—The Washington Post
–The Washington Post Book World
In the depths of a Beijing winter, during the waning days of Deng Xiaoping’s reign, the U.S. ambassador’s son is found dead–his body entombed in a frozen lake. Around the same time, aboard a ship adrift off the coast of Southern California, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Stark makes a startling discovery: the corpse of a Red Prince, a scion of China’s political elite.
The Chinese and American governments suspect that the deaths are connected and, in an unprecedented move, they join forces to see justice done. In Beijing, David teams up with the unorthodox police detective Liu Hulan. In an investigation that brings them to every corner of China and sparks an intense attraction between the two, David and Hulan discover a web linking human trafficking to the drug trade to governmental treachery–a web reaching from the Forbidden City to the heart of Los Angeles and, like the wide flower net used by Chinese fishermen, threatening to ensnare all within its reach.
“A graceful rendering of two different and complex cultures, within a highly intricate plot . . . The starkly beautiful landscapes of Beijing and its surrounding countryside are depicted with a lyrical precision.”
–Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Murder and intrigue splash across the canvas of modern Chinese life. . . . A vivid portrait of a vast Communist nation in the painful throes of a sea change.”
“Fascinating . . . that rare thriller that enlightens as well as it entertains.”
–San Diego Union-Tribune
A Finalist for the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK
The troubled Hulan must overcome her own fears of failure, while David tries desperately to break through the shell that has built up around his wife. As Hulan and David are enmeshed in international schemes for power and the turbulence of their own relationship, these hunters after the truth become the hunted—in a fast-driving narrative set against the backdrop of the building of the Three Gorges Dam, the largest and most expensive project China has undertaken since the Great Wall and the subject of great international debate. It is here, in the heart of the Three Gorges, that David and Hulan will battle their enemies and their own natures to see who will win China’s dragon bones.
Dragon Bones combines ancient myth with contemporary anxieties concerning religious fanaticism and terrorism to tell a story of love, betrayal, history, ecology, greed—and gory murder.
While David Stark is asked to open a law office in Beijing, his lover, detective Liu Hulan, receives an urgent message from an old friend imploring her to investigate the suspicious death of her daughter, who worked for a toy company about to be sold to David’s new client, Tartan Enterprises.
Despite David’s protests, Hulan goes undercover at the toy factory in the rural village of Da Shui, deep in the heart of China. It is a place that forces Hulan to face a past she has long been running from. Once there, rather than finding answers to the girl’s death, Hulan unearths more questions, all of which point to possible crimes committed by David’s client. Suddenly Hulan and David find themselves on opposing sides: One of them is trying to expose a company and unearth a killer, while the other is ethically bound to protect his client. As pressures mount and danger increases, Hulan and David uncover universal truths about good and evil, right and wrong–and the sometimes subtle lines that distinguish them.
Praise for The Interior
“[See] illuminates tradition and change, Western and Eastern cultural differences. . . . All this in the middle of her thriller which is also about greed, corruption, abuse of the disadvantaged, the desperation of those on the bottom of the food chain, and love.”—The Tennessean
“Sophisticated . . . graceful . . . See’s picture of contemporary China’s relationship with the United States is aptly played out through her characters.”—Los Angeles Times
“Immediate, haunting and exquisitely rendered.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“I finally understand what the poets have written. In spring, moved to passion; in autumn only regret.”
In seventeenth-century China, in an elaborate villa on the shores of Hangzhou’s West Lake, Peony lives a sheltered life. One night, during a theatrical performance in her family’s garden, Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man and is immediately overcome with emotion. So begins Peony’s unforgettable journey of love and destiny, desire and sorrow, the living world and the afterworld. Eventually expelled from all she’s known, Peony is thrust into a realm where hungry ghosts wander the earth, written words have the power to hurt and kill, and dreams are as vivid as waking life. Lisa See’s novel, based on actual historical events, evokes vividly another time and place—where three generations of women become enmeshed in a dramatic story, uncover past secrets and tragedies, and learn that love can transcend death. Peony in Love will make you ache in heart and mind for young Peony and all the women of the world who want to be heard.
BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Lisa See's Shanghai Girls.
Praise for Peony in Love
“Electrifying . . . a fascinating and often surprising story of women helping women, women hurting women and women misunderstanding each other.”—The Miami Herald
“See mines an intriguing vein of Chinese history . . . weaving fact and fiction into a dense romantic tapestry of time and place as she meditates on the meaning of love, the necessity of self-expression and the influence of art.”—Los Angeles Times
“A transporting read, to lost worlds earthly and otherwise.”—Chicago Tribune
“A quietly beautiful tale that sneaks into the reader’s heart . . . Not since Susie Salmon of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones has a ghostly narrator been as believable and empathetic.”—San Antonio Express-News
“There’s much here to be savored and a great deal to be learned.”—The Washington Post Book World
“Superb . . . This emotional, informative and brilliant page-turner resonates with resilience and humanity.”—The Washington Post (One of the Best Books of the Year)
San Francisco, 1938: A world’s fair is preparing to open on Treasure Island, a war is brewing overseas, and the city is alive with possibilities. Talented Grace, traditional Helen, and defiant Ruby, three young women from very different backgrounds, meet by chance at the exclusive and glamorous Forbidden City nightclub. The girls become fast friends, relying on one another through unexpected challenges and shifting fortunes. When their dark secrets are exposed and the invisible thread of fate binds them even tighter, they find the strength and resilience to reach for their dreams. But after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, paranoia and suspicion threaten to destroy their lives, and a shocking act of betrayal changes everything.
Praise for China Dolls
“A sweeping, turbulent tale of passion, friendship, good fortune, bad fortune, perfidy and the hope of reconciliation.”—Los Angeles Times
“Bravo! Here’s a roaring standing ovation for this heartwarming journey into the glittering golden age of Chinese nightclubs.”—Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
“Lisa See masterfully creates unforgettable characters that linger in your memory long after you close the pages.”—Bookreporter
“Stellar . . . The depth of See’s characters and her winning prose make this book a wonderful journey through love and loss.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Esta novela es una ventana a un mundo asombroso, lejano y desconocido, un retrato vivo de la vida de unas mujeres extraordinarias que dejará en el lector una impresión difícil de olvidar.
En una remota provincia de China, las mujeres crearon hace siglos un lenguaje secreto para comunicarse libremente entre sí: el nu shu. Aisladas en sus casas y sometidas a la férrea autoridad masculina, el nu shu era su única vía de escape. Mediante sus mensajes, escritos o bordados en telas, abanicos y otros objetos, daban testimonio de un mundo tan sofisticado como implacable.
El año 2002, la autora de esta novela viajó a la provincia de Huan, cuna de esta milenaria escritura fonética, para estudiarla en profundidad. Su prolongada estancia le permitió recoger testimonios de mujeres que la conocían, así como de la última hablante de nu shu, la nonagenaria Yang Huanyi. A partir de aquellas investigaciones, Lisa See concibióesta conmovedora historia sobre la amistad entre dos mujeres, Lirio Blanco y Flor de Nieve.
Como prueba de su buena estrella, la pequeña Lirio Blanco, hija de una humilde familia de campesinos, será hermanada con Flor de Nieve, de muy diferente ascendencia social. En una ceremonia ancestral, ambas se convierten en laotong -«mi otro yo» o «alma gemela»-, un vínculo que perdurará toda la vida. Así pues, a lo largo de los años, Lirio Blanco y Flor de Nieve se comunicarán gracias a ese lenguaje secreto, compartiendo sus más íntimos pensamientos y emociones, y consolándose de las penalidades del matrimonio y la maternidad. El nu shu las mantendrá unidas, hasta que un error de interpretación amenazará con truncar su profunda amistad.