On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Out of the stories heard in her childhood in Los Angeles's Chinatown and years of research, See has constructed this sweeping chronicle of her Chinese-American family, a work that takes in stories of racism and romance, entrepreneurial genius and domestic heartache, secret marriages and sibling rivalries, in a powerful history of two cultures meeting in a new world.
The result is a vivid, sweeping family portrait in the tradition of Alex Haley's Roots that is at once particular and universal, telling the story not only of one family, but of the Chinese people in America itself, a country that both welcomes and reviles immigrants like no other culture in the world. On Gold Mountain was a national best seller and a New York Times Notable Book.
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|Listening Length||18 hours and 6 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||March 01, 2011|
|Publisher||Random House Audio|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #33,598 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#246 in Historical Biographies (Audible Books & Originals)
#1,028 in United States History (Audible Books & Originals)
#1,370 in United States Biographies
Top reviews from the United States
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Gold Mountain was the Chinese nickname for the US back in the 1800's. This book is a family history covering over hundred years, but done in a way I've not seen before, as she not only describes the events that defined the Fong See and Lettice Pruett legacy (her great grandparents), but she also puts herself directly in the mind of all her relatives and ancestors, which at times gives the book the feel of a novel. Lisa See looks like an Irish redhead (there were two redheads in her Chinese/American lineage), but she is 1/4 Chinese, and as a young woman, found solace in her extended and welcoming Chinese family, as her parents were somewhat dysfunctional while she was growing up. It's one reason I suspect that her novels mix Chinese and American cultural themes and characters.
The book actually starts with her great-great grandfather, although he returns to China. However, his son, Fong See, comes and stays (moving from San Francisco to Sacramento to Los Angeles), although he travels extensively for his business. He marries a Caucasian woman, Lettice Pruett, which leads to many interesting and varied cultural and legal conflicts, both in the US and in China. While the US was actively discouraging Asian immigration after the completion of the transcontinental railroad, many were also fascinated with Asian furniture, art, and curios, which became the family business (check out the youtube video for the F. Suie One Company). This is truly an amazing work, and in the addendum, See describes what a work in progress a family history can be, trying to separate family mythology from fact. For anyone with Asian ancestors, Chinese in particular, this feels like a must read book, and for anyone who values what immigration has meant for the US, and the challenges immigrants have faced (and continue to face), this is also a must read book. Five stars from this reader.
On Golden Mountain was her first book and is the story of her family’s immigration to the US from China in the mid-19th Century. Family is an understatement, however, as the patriarch, Fong See, had four wives, one of which was Caucasian, and each had multiple children. By the time she gets to her own generation, therefore, the family tree is inconceivable, made all the more confusing by the fact that many Westerners have difficulty with Chinese names. A graphical family tree would have been immensely helpful but, alas, the Kindle version that I read does not have one.
Unlike See’s other works, this is not so much a novel as it is a journal. In fairness to the author, however, she never promises anything else. She states, in fact, that her family was and is really quite ordinary, although she is right that there is “a lot to be learned from the ordinary and it’s that very ordinariness that links my family to all American families.”
Her family did, however, face incredible hardship as a result of extreme prejudice on the Golden Mountain (the US). Sadly, that story continues, if not for the Chinese (although it still exists for them far more than you might realize), then for the same people chasing the same dreams who simply hail from a different origin and by sheer happenstance of birth happen to have a different skin color.
Although I am an American Caucasian by birth I have lived, off and on, in China since 2007. I currently live in Beijing. And one of the reasons I have so enjoyed Lisa See’s work is that she is one of the few authors writing in English that seems to fully comprehend the difference between Western and Chinese culture. It’s a difference not just of traditions and habits but of worldview and perspective.
You won’t find as much of that insight in this book, but again, that wasn’t her purpose. And while it is a bit long, it had to be given the size of the clan and the number of generations covered. I have found that Chinese culture (and the way they drive) is guided more by the rules of flowing water than the discrete rules and traditions of Western culture. I suggest, therefore, that you will enjoy the book more if you don’t worry too much about who is related to whom. It’s the flow of the lineage that’s important.
One reward for reading to the end, however, is that See finally reveals the family member that she is related to. That was obviously deliberate. She clearly deduced that once the reader knows the other characters will not carry equal significance and she wants to tell the family’s story, not just hers. Very clever. I have to admit, however, that as I read the book I found not knowing a bit of a distraction. The question hovered in the back of my mind throughout and gave me the uncomfortable sense that there was something that the author was withholding from the reader. I ultimately concede to her decision, however. It was the right one.
In the end, the author notes “nothing has been more important or precious to me than my family being proud of me.” And, “What I learned from writing On Gold Mountain is that all that really matters in life is family, tradition, and love.” And that lesson resonates throughout the book. It is the book’s ultimate theme.
So if that is a message you can relate to or need at the moment, I suggest you dive in.
Published 10 yrs ago, it was one of the books I read after her others. The reason being is that Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was the first I came across and read and have been following her books ever since, never to be disappointed.
Interesting and fulfilling. I love the depth of story and history she puts into her books.
Top reviews from other countries
When the author gets to the last chapters, I.e. parents and self, by force, I guess, it became less interesting, and for my taste, a big come down and small reward for finishing the book.
Didn’t appreciate ( my fault) that this was a story of her family and their establishment in America. Have really enjoyed it but then I am fascinated by stories both fictional and non fictional about the Far East.