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[LITERATURE] Lisa See's "Snow Flower" & History

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  • madchinaman
    Lisa See s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel is optioned. The book: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel, by Lisa See The buyer: Florence Sloan
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 31, 2008
      Lisa See's 'Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel' is optioned.
      The book: "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel," by Lisa See The
      buyer: Florence Sloan
      Lisa See is the author of Flower 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.
      By Josh Getlin, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
      http://www.calendarlive.com/tv/radio/cl-et-
      bookit27mar27,0,508108.story
      Lisa See's Past Books: http://www.lisasee.com/Books.htm
      Lisa See's Upcoming Events: http://www.lisasee.com/Events.htm
      Audio Interview with Dr. Moira Gunn:
      http://itc.conversationsnetwork.org/shows/detail1880.html


      -

      Product Details
      ISBN:9781400060283
      Author:See, Lisa
      Publisher:Random House
      Author:See, Lisa
      Subject:General
      Subject:Women
      Subject:Historical - General
      Subject:Married women
      Copyright:2005
      Publication Date:June 28, 2005
      Binding:Hardcover
      Language:English
      Pages:258
      Dimensions:9.76x6.58x1.06 in. 1.13 lbs.
      *
      Lisa See
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisa_See
      Lisa See is an American author. Her books include Snow Flower and the
      Secret Fan (2005), Dragon Bones, On Gold Mountain, and Peony in Love.
      She was named the 2001 National Woman of the Year, by the
      Organization of Chinese American Women. She lives in Los Angeles.

      Her latest book entitled Snow Flower and the Secret Fan features
      reference to the ancient Chinese practice of female foot binding, the
      secret language of Nü Shu and the treatment of women in the 19th
      century.
      *
      The book traces the journey of Lisa's great-grandfather, Fong See,
      who overcame obstacles at every step to become the 100-year-old
      godfather of Los Angeles's Chinatown and the patriarch of a sprawling
      family.
      *
      It (On Gold Mountain) tells the story of how her great-grandfather
      Fong See emigrated from China to the place known as "Gold Mountain"
      (the U.S.), how he married a white woman, and of his rise to become
      one of the most prominent Chinese in the country.
      *
      See learned that her great-grandfather Fong See was not the first
      person from her family to come to the U.S. from China; rather, it was
      her great-great-grandfather who first came to work on the
      Transcontinental Railroad as an herbalist.
      *
      Several years later, in what was labeled as dangerous and illegal,
      Fong See married a Caucasian woman, Letticie Pruett, or Ticie, as she
      is known. Before 1948, no Chinese person could marry a Caucasian
      woman; nor could they own any kind of property. The couple later
      moved to Los Angeles, staying in the underwear industry for several
      more years before settling down in the antiques business.
      *
      By 1919, Fong See was one few Chinese men who conducted business with
      the Caucasian community on a daily basis.
      *
      Fong See did very well in America. He had four wives, was the first
      Chinese to own an automobile, and lived to be 100. He made his
      fortune not in underwear but in curios and antiques and moved down to
      Chinatown in Los Angeles where he settled, making frequent trips back
      to China. In 1982 the antique store moved to Pasadena where it
      remains today selling and renting out Chinese furniture for movie
      sets.
      *
      "My great-grandfather manufactured crotchless underwear for brothels -
      that was our family's glorious beginning in America," said See.
      *
      Fong See, the family patriarch, immigrated to the United States just
      after the completion of the railroad around 1870. The fourth son in a
      family of five, his name means fourth son of Fong, well those
      immigration officials didn't get it, and so his family name became
      See. He had two wives in the US, one a white woman, and two in China.
      *
      In 1871 my great-grandfather Fong See, an illiterate peasant, left
      his village in southern China for Sacramento, California, in search
      of his father, who had disappeared during the building of the
      transcontinental railroad.
      *
      Fong See became the patriarch of Los Angeles Chinatown. He was the
      first Chinese in the U.S. to own an automobile and was one of the few
      Chinese to do business with the white community by selling props to
      the nascent film industry and antiques to customers like Frank Lloyd
      Wright. Despite these successes, Fong See's four sons�all American-
      born citizens�had to go to Mexico to marry their Caucasian fianc�s.
      *
      On book tours, Caucasians will often ask point-blank, "Why would you
      choose to be Chinese when you have all the privileges of being
      white?" Given my family and the era in which I grew up, I don't know
      that I had a choice.
      *
      In 1871, 14-year-old Fong see came from China to "Gold Mountain"- the
      United States. Fong see stayed, worked at menial jobs, and saved
      enough money to buy a business. Despite widespread restrictions
      against the Chinese, he became a very successful importer and was
      able to sponsor many other Chinese who wanted to enter the United
      States. Fong See had achieved the American dream.
      http://www.tqnyc.org/NYC051977/immigration.html
      *
      According to the 1872 California Antimiscegenation Act, it was
      against the law for a Chinese person to marry a Caucasian. In 1897,
      they (Fong See & Lettice Pruett) went to alawyer to have a marriage
      contract drawn up. This was recognized by the state notas a marriage,
      but as a contract between two people. Shortly after their
      marriagecontract, they moved to Los Angeles and raised a family
      *
      It was actually my great-great-grandfather Fong Dun Shung, who came
      to work on the transcontinental railroad as an herbalist.
      *
      By 1870 Fong Dun Shung had left the railroad camps and opened an
      herbal shop, Kwong Tsui Chang (Success Peacefully) on I Street in
      Sacramento. He practiced Chinese herbal medicine, administering to
      men who were sick or seeking sexual prowess, and women, mostly
      prostitutes, who fought venereal disease, tuberculosis and pregnancy.
      Unlike many immigrants, Fong Dun Shung did not send money back home
      to China. His family became so desperate that they sent fourteen-year-
      old Fong See to find his father. Fong Dun Shung returned home to
      China in 1871, leaving Fong See to run the Sacramento business with
      his two brothers.
      *
      Sojourners Journeyed to Gum Saan (Gold Mountain)
      Most Chinese immigrants coming to America during the California Gold
      Rush arrived in San Francisco, which they called Gum Saan - Gold
      Mountain - a place of freedom and prosperity. Gold Mountain Travelers
      were part of an overwhelmingly male exodus from Southeast China. One
      of the many sojourners to Gold Mountain was Fong Dun Shung from the
      village of Dimtao in Guangdong Province. Like most immigrants, he
      fled poverty. He traveled with his second and third sons, leaving
      behind in China his wife, an eldest son addicted to opium, a young
      son and a daughter. A typical immigrant, Fong Dun Shung carried with
      him simple belongings, but unlike many immigrants, he had a special
      skill. Fong Dun Shung was a practitioner of traditional Chinese
      herbal medicine.
      http://www.apa.si.edu/ongoldmountain/gallery1/gallery1.html
      *
      Early Immigrants Came from South China
      About 322,000 Chinese came to the United States between 1850 and
      1882. Most nineteenth-century Chinese sojourners came from the
      provinces of Guangdong and Fujian in South China. Many Chinese
      Americans today trace their roots to the Pearl River Delta in
      Guangdong Province. This region consists of eight districts, each
      roughly the size of an American county. Early immigrants to the
      continental United States were predominantly from the Sze Yup
      District, while Hawaii attracted people from Zhongshan.

      -


      The deal
      Florence Sloan (Bigfeet Productions) options Lisa See's "Snow Flower
      and the Secret Fan: A Novel," an international bestseller about women
      who rebel against rigid restrictions in 19th century China and
      communicate in an ancient secret code.

      The players
      Sloan and Wendi Murdoch producing; See represented by the Sandra
      Dijkstra Literary Agency and on film rights by Michael Cendejas with
      the Lynn Pleshette Literary Agency. The book is published by Random
      House Trade Paperbacks.

      The back story
      When writers sell the film rights to their books, many worry about
      the original story and how it will fare on the screen. But See is
      more concerned about culture. "I don't want to see actors stirring
      the rice as they cook it," she said. The Los Angeles writer has
      reason to be concerned: Two of her previous books were optioned, and
      while neither became a film, she was irked by insensitivity in both
      treatments. (In one, she said, a script written with Mel Gibson in
      mind had a scene in which he beat up several Chinese men, then
      asked: "Got milk?")

      The author, who has written vividly about her own Chinese American
      lineage, insisted on the right to have cultural input into any
      adaptation of "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan." The women who
      optioned her 2005 novel are both Chinese merican and they could not
      have been more sympathetic. The proposed movie is the debut project
      for Sloan, who is married to MGM Chairman and CEO Harry Sloan, and
      for Murdoch, whose husband, Rupert, runs News Corp. They were smitten
      with See's absorbing story and quickly sensed its cinematic potential.

      "Both of us being Chinese played a part in the optioning of the
      rights, and we felt a connection to it because of the Chinese history
      and culture that is the driving force of the story," said Sloan in an
      e-mail. "Wendi and I are very close friends (and) she approached me
      about forming a company and being partners."

      See is also hopeful about an option deal for her latest novel, "Peony
      in Love," which is being negotiated with Ridley Scott's production
      company. "The timing for all this seems perfect, with all the
      interest in China," she said. "But I remember the old saying about
      books into films: Many are chosen, few are made."


      =======


      BIOGRAPHY
      http://www.lisasee.com/Bio.htm


      Lisa See, author of the critically-acclaimed international
      bestseller, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005), has always been
      intrigued by stories that have been lost, forgotten, or deliberately
      covered up, whether in the past or happening right now in the world
      today. For Snow Flower, she traveled to a remote area of China –
      where she was told she was only the second foreigner ever to visit –
      to research the secret writing invented, used, and kept a secret by
      women for over a thousand years. Amy Tan called the novel "achingly
      beautiful, a marvel of imagination." Others agreed, and foreign-
      language rights for Snow Flower were sold to 36 countries. The novel
      also became a New York Times bestseller, a Booksense Number One Pick,
      and has won numerous awards domestically and internationally.

      Ms. See's new novel once again delves into forgotten history. Peony
      in Love takes place in 17th-century China in the Yangzi River delta.
      It's based on the true story of three "lovesick maidens," who were
      married to the same man – one right after the other, not one reaching
      age twenty. Together they wrote the first book of its kind to have
      been written and published anywhere in the world by women. (The
      lovesick maidens were part of a much larger phenomenon. In the 17th
      century, there were more women writers in China who were being
      published than altogether in the rest of the world at that time.)
      Ultimately, Peony in Love about the bonds of female friendship, the
      power of words, the desire that all women have to be heard, and
      finally those emotions that are so strong that they transcend time,
      place, and perhaps even death.

      Ms. See was born in Paris but grew up in Los Angeles, spending much
      of her time in Chinatown. Her first book, On Gold Mountain: The One
      Hundred Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family (1995), was a
      national bestseller and a New York Times Notable Book. The book
      traces the journey of Lisa's great-grandfather, Fong See, who
      overcame obstacles at every step to become the 100-year-old godfather
      of Los Angeles's Chinatown and the patriarch of a sprawling family.

      While collecting the details for On Gold Mountain, she developed the
      idea for her first novel, Flower Net (1997), which was a national
      bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book, and on the Los Angeles
      Times Best Books List for 1997. Flower Net was also nominated for an
      Edgar award for best first novel. This was followed by two more
      mystery-thrillers, The Interior (2000) and Dragon Bones (2003), which
      once again featured the characters of Liu Hulan and David Stark. This
      series inspired critics to compare Ms. See to Upton Sinclair,
      Dashiell Hammett, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

      In addition to writing books, Ms. See was the Publishers Weekly West
      Coast Correspondent for thirteen years. As a freelance journalist,
      her articles have appeared in Vogue, Self, and More, as well as in
      numerous book reviews around the country.

      She wrote the libretto for Los Angeles Opera based on On Gold
      Mountain, which premiered in June 2000 at the Japan American Theatre
      followed by the Irvine Barclay Theatre. She also served as guest
      curator for an exhibit on the Chinese-American experience for the
      Autry Museum of Western Heritage, which then traveled to the
      Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., in 2001. Ms. See then
      helped develop and curate the Family Discovery Gallery at the Autry
      Museum, an interactive space for children and their families that
      focuses on Lisa's bi-racial, bi-cultural family as seen through the
      eyes of her father as a seven-year-old boy living in 1930s Los
      Angeles.

      In addition, she recently designed a walking tour of Los Angeles
      Chinatown and wrote the companion guidebook for Angels Walk L.A. to
      celebrate the opening of the MTA's new Chinatown metro station. She
      also curated the inaugural exhibition – a retrospective of artist
      Tyrus Wong – for the grand opening of the Chinese American Museum in
      Los Angeles.

      Ms. See serves as a Los Angeles City Commissioner on the El Pueblo de
      Los Angeles Monument Authority. She was honored as National Woman of
      the Year by the Organization of Chinese American Women in 2001 and
      was the recipient of the Chinese American Museum's History Makers
      Award in Fall 2003.


      ==========


      Interview
      Lisa See, author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
      http://www.waterbridgereview.org/092005/cnv_see.php


      WaterBridge Review: In your latest novel, Snow Flower and the Secret
      Fan, you've written about little known nu shu, a phonetic code used
      between women in Hunan Province in China. How did you become aware of
      it?

      Lisa See: I first heard about nu shu when I reviewed a book for the
      Los Angeles Times on the history of footbinding. It was just a short
      three- or four- page mention, but I thought, how could this exist and
      I didn't know about it? Then I thought, how could this exist and we
      all didn't know about it? Because so often we hear that in the past
      there were no women writers, artists, historians, chefs, and the list
      goes on and on. Of course women did these things, but that work has
      been lost, forgotten, or deliberately covered up. Nu shu, on the
      other hand, was an example of something that women had invented,
      used, and kept a secret themselves for a thousand years. That amazed
      me, and I became totally obsessed.

      WBR: You've written three mysteries taking place in China before your
      latest novel. What is it about China that brings you back book after
      book?

      LS: I'm part Chinese. My great-great-grandfather came here to work on
      the building of the transcontinental railroad. My great-grandfather
      was the patriarch of Los Angeles Chinatown. I don't look at all
      Chinese, but I grew up in a very large Chinese-American family. I
      have about four hundred relatives in Los Angeles, of which there are
      about a dozen who look like me. All writers are told to write what
      they know, and this is what I know. And when I don't know something—
      nu shu, for example—I love to find out whatever I can about it and
      then bring my sensibility to the subject. I guess what I'm trying to
      say is that in many ways I straddle two cultures. I try to bring what
      I know from both cultures into my work. I have no way of knowing if
      this is true or not, but perhaps the American side of me is able to
      open a window into China and things Chinese for non-Chinese, while
      the Chinese side of me makes sure that what I'm writing is true to
      the Chinese culture without making it seem too "exotic" or "foreign."
      In other words, what I really want people to get from my books is
      that all people on the planet share common life experiences—falling
      in love, getting married, having children, dying—and share common
      emotions—love, hate, greed, jealousy. These are the universals; the
      differences are in the particulars of customs and culture.

      WBR: Was it a difficult transition to move from the mystery genre to
      a straight fictional story?

      LS: Straight fiction is much easier than mysteries or thrillers.
      Writing the mysteries really helped me with Snow Flower. With
      mysteries, you have to keep focused on the plot. You can't overlook a
      single detail. It's a very tight form and pacing is extremely
      important. Today, straight fiction, especially women's fiction, has
      very little plot. It's just a slice of life with an emotional change.
      I personally prefer novels that have enough plot that I will continue
      to turn the pages. For Snow Flower, the plotline was, why does Lily
      feel such regret and what happened between her and Snow Flower to
      create their rift? You see, it's still a tiny bit of a mystery.
      Writing the mysteries really helped me as I thought about the pacing,
      characters, and emotional arc of this new novel.

      WBR: What are you working on right now?

      LS: I liken what I'm working on now to a reverse mirror image of Snow
      Flower. Unfortunately, there's no short way to say this—no quick
      sound bite, as it were—so I hope you'll bear with me. Snow Flower
      takes place in the nineteenth century and has to do with poor,
      uneducated (illiterate in standard Chinese) women, who used secret
      code writing to communicate. The new novel is set in the seventeenth
      century in the Yangzi Delta. The women there were from the elite
      class, highly educated, but they also lived in almost utter
      seclusion. More women writers in that small area were being published
      than anywhere else in the world at that time.

      There was a subcategory of these women writers called the "lovesick
      maidens of Hangzhou": sixteen-year-old girls who were obsessed with
      the opera, The Peony Pavilion, caught cases of lovesickness like the
      heroine in the opera, and wrote beautiful poetry as they wasted away
      and died. The new novel is based on a true story of three of those
      lovesick maidens who were married to the same man, who together wrote
      the first piece of literary criticism written by women ever to be
      published in the world. I'm writing it as a ghost story within a
      ghost story.

      I'm also working on a young adult book on the history of the Chinese
      in America. This is a completely different kind of project and lets
      me look at photographs, archival materials, and other types of
      ephemera to help tell the history in a way that will be captivating
      to kids. Even today, there's still very little out there for adults
      or kids on Chinese-American history. I hope this book will help fill
      that void and still be entertaining.

      WBR: How do you find peace of mind in your every day life?

      LS: What peace of mind? My son is in the room and I asked him and he
      answered, "You think about your wonderful children, you go to violent
      movies with lots of sex in them, you try not to think about our
      government, you watch The Daily Show, and you listen to The Walk on
      the Moon soundtrack." Yep, I think that about sums it up. The only
      other thing I would say is that I try to approach life like a
      recovering alcoholic: I just do one thing at a time and cross the
      bridge when I come to it.

      WBR: What are some of these books waiting for you on your bedstand?

      LS: Actually, I've just been on vacation and I'm caught up. I usually
      don't read fiction when I'm working on a novel, because I don't want
      that author's voice seeping into my work. When I'm working, I try to
      immerse myself in the subject and that world. So shortly I'll be
      going back to reading about women in seventeenth-century China, the
      fall of the Ming Dynasty and rise of the Qing Dynasty, pieces on The
      Peony Pavilion, and, of course, what the lovesick maidens themselves
      wrote.

      WBR: If you could choose, who would be your favorite hero or heroine
      of fiction?

      LS: Oh, that's easy, but none of them are from books. Ripley in the
      Alien movies, Starbuck in the new Battlestar Gallactica TV series,
      Trinity in The Matrix, and Sydney Bristow in Alias, also on TV. I
      really love those kick-ass women!

      WBR: And what character in a book most resembles your own personality?

      LS: This is an easy one too, but no one will have ever heard of the
      book or the character. I had a favorite book as a little girl called
      Ameliaranne and the Magic Ring. My grandmother had picked up a very
      used and old copy at a garage sale. My little sister lost it and what
      can I say? I held a grudge about that for about 35 years. (At least
      my sister thinks I held a grudge. I thought I was just teasing her
      about it.)

      I just turned fifty—horrifying, I know—and my sister gave me a copy
      of the book. It turns out it was part of a British series of
      children's books, but that only two thousand copies had been
      distributed of this particular title. What was amazing to me as I
      read it again these many years later was how close my personality was
      to Ameliaranne. Had I identified with her as a girl because I was
      already like her in some way, or had I emulated her as I grew older?
      What was really odd was that Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was just
      about to come out, and I hope you can see how I'd used the feel of
      the title of that book in the title for my book.

      WBR: While under the spell of so many different characters, is there
      a specific talent you would most like to have?

      LS: ESP, an awesome serve for tennis, to be able to TIVO in real
      life, and to know where the commas go at all time.

      WBR: Is there a particular author, past or present, who has
      influenced your writing?

      LS: Again, I'm sorry to say he isn't a writer of books. Bob Dylan has
      been a huge influence on my writing. He knows how to tell a whole
      story in just a few minutes and he has a wonderful way with words. Of
      course, the guy can't sing, but you can't have everything.

      WBR: Other than traveling the world through books, is there anywhere
      you would like to travel to?

      LS: Mongolia. I used to have terrible insomnia and so did my
      grandmother. I remember one night watching a documentary on Mongolia.
      The emptiness of the landscape completely entranced me. A few days
      later I was with my grandmother and she had seen the same documentary
      and felt the same way. We used to talk all the time about going
      there, but we never had a chance. I'd also love to go to Vietnam,
      Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. And I'd love to see Australia and New
      Zealand one of these days. Actually, I love to travel more than just
      about anything, so I'm always up to go anywhere anytime. Later this
      week I'm off to The Netherlands, Germany, and Poland for a book tour.

      WBR: What's the last movie you saw?

      LS: Okay, so this has been a very bad year for movies, so no one
      should read anything into these movies. I went to a screening of
      Pride and Prejudice on Friday night. (It was nothing to write home
      about.) On Saturday we saw You, Me and Everyone We Know, which was a
      quirky little film with an outstanding performance by a little boy
      that really made me laugh. And yesterday we saw The 40-year-old
      Virgin, which was surprisingly poignant in a totally juvenile way.

      WBR: If you weren't a writer, what would you be?

      LS: A landscape architect.

      WBR: How do you spend your time when you're not writing?

      LS: I go for walks and play tennis. I love movies and see about a
      hundred a year. But frankly, I don't have much free time. I'm a L.A.
      city commissioner. I also curate the occasional museum exhibition and
      do tons of speaking events each year. I'm also a freak when it comes
      to letter writing. I write lots of letters. My days are
      extraordinarily full with all sorts of things, and I have to say no a
      lot so I can write.

      WBR: And lastly, what is the bravest thing you've ever done?

      LS: This is a funny question, because I'm torn about how to answer
      it. For me the scariest things I've done are the times that I've had
      to take care of my kids when they've been hurt or sick. I've really
      had to be very brave through some of those.

      The more obvious answer would be some of the travel I've done. Going
      to Jiangyong County to research nu shu required a certain amount of
      bravery, I suppose. I was told I was only the second foreigner to go
      there. The bright side of a trip like that is that everything is
      completely new. The down sides are no hot water and eating things
      like pig penis. But I don't consider that to require much in the way
      of bravery. They're just minor inconveniences so that I can explore a
      deep passion.

      And if I look at your question in a whole other way, I would say that
      writing is the bravest thing I've done. Like all artists, writers
      have to be willing to go to the bone, reveal themselves, and then be
      willing for people to hate what they have to say. But I don't know if
      you would call that bravery or insanity.


      ============


      Lisa See Interview
      http://www.loadedshelf.com/page.php?15


      K Hewitt: Your most recent novel "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" is
      based around nu shu ("women's writing") which has been noted to be
      the only gender-based written language to have been found in the
      world. When did you first learn about this form of communication?
      What led you to base a novel around it?

      Lisa See: I first heard about nu shu when I reviewed a book for the
      L.A. Times on the history of footbinding. It was just a short three
      or four page mention, but I thought, how could this exist and I
      didn't know about it? Then I thought, how could this exist and we all
      didn't know about it? Because so often we hear that in the past there
      were no women writers, artists, historians, chefs, and the list goes
      on and on. Of course women did these things, but that work has been
      lost, forgotten, or deliberately covered up. Nu shu, on the other
      hand, was an example of something that women had invented, used, and
      kept a secret themselves for a thousand years. That amazed me, and I
      have to say I became totally obsessed.

      But it took me a long time before I realized I would write a novel
      based on nu shu. I read all this academic stuff written by scholars
      and I went to southwestern Hunan province to learn what I could. What
      I discovered was that the scholars—as brilliant as they are—always
      seemed to leave out the emotions inherent in the secret language. It
      was something used by real women who had real emotions. I thought a
      novel would be the best way to explore that.

      KH: I imagine that you spent quite a bit of time doing research about
      your family for you first book "On Gold Mountain: The One Hundred
      Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family", during that process did
      you ever discover something that surprised you?

      LS: I worked on On Gold Mountain for five years. I interviewed
      friends, relatives, business associate, and even some enemies of my
      family. I spent a lot of time in people's attics, basements, closets,
      and garages looking at ephemera. I went to Waterville, Washington,
      where my grandmother was from, to Central Point Oregon, where my
      great-grandmother was from, to my family's home village in China, and
      to a lot of national, state, and local archives of various sorts.
      It's hard for me to pick one thing that surprised me, because I was
      surprised so many times.

      I guess the thing that really got me though had to do with my great-
      grandmother. In my family, everyone always talked about my great-
      grandfather, Fong See, but rarely about his wife. She was the mom, so
      I guess not very interesting. I knew she'd been born in Central
      Point, that her mother died when she was a baby, that her father died
      when she was seven, that she was raised by brothers who were reputed
      to be quite cruel to her, and that she ran away from home when she
      was seventeen. That's it! I contacted the historical society in
      Medford, OR, and got a very good researcher. Periodically, she would
      send me things she'd found – a clipping about Ticie's father's death
      in a horse-racing accident, when her brother got married, the
      homestead claim for the property. The researcher drove by the
      homestead and saw that the barn was still there.

      I decided to go up and see what I could see. I went to the property
      and walked around, and then I drove to the cemetery, which was just
      down the street. I knew Ticie's father's name, but not her mother's.
      I walked through the cemetery until I found John Milton Pruett's
      gravestone and next to it the one for his wife, Luscinda. I now knew
      when she was born and when she died. About a half hour after that I
      was at the historical society and I asked if it ever snowed in
      Medford. (It was 120 degrees that day, no kidding, so it wasn't a
      crazy question.) The researcher told me that, yes, it snowed, but
      they were also known for their fog and heat. In fact, she didn't live
      in Medford and kept an 1877 copy of a diary written by a man who was
      a farmer by day and a preacher on horseback by night. He always made
      a notation of the weather and the researcher now used it like an
      almanac so she would know how to dress for work. Would I like to take
      a look at it? Sure!

      I had just learned that Luscinda had died on April 9, 1877. I turned
      to that page in the farmer's diary and he was there with her when she
      died. It turned out he was the Pruetts' next door neighbor. The whole
      diary was filled with anecdotes about the Pruett family—how they
      traded butter for lard, how they traded peaches for pears, how much
      the reverend paid the Pruett boys to do hauling for him. And it
      tracked when Luscinda first got sick, when the Reverend Patterson's
      wife made her special homemade cough syrup, that when Luscinda knew
      she was going to die the Bible verse that she asked him to read at
      her funeral, and, finally, what the weather was like on the day she
      was buried.

      KH: I was fascinated to learn, when researching for this interview,
      that your grandfather, Fong See, was the patriarch of Los Angeles'
      Chinatown. How has your grandfather's legacy shaped your life?

      My great-great-grandfather came here to work on the building of the
      transcontinental railroad. My great-grandfather was the
      godfather/patriarch of Los Angeles Chinatown. I don't look at all
      Chinese, but I grew up in a very large Chinese-American family. I
      have about 400 relatives in Los Angeles, of which there are about a
      dozen that look like me. They were my mirror, so how could I believe
      I was different than they were?

      All writers are told to write what they know, and this is what I
      know. And when I don't know something – nu shu, for example – I love
      to find out whatever I can about it and then bring my sensibility to
      the subject. I guess what I'm trying to say is that in many ways I
      straddle two cultures. I try to bring what I know from both cultures
      into my work. I have no way of knowing if this is true or not, but
      perhaps the American side of me is able to open a window into China
      and things Chinese for non-Chinese, while the Chinese side of me
      makes sure that what I'm writing is true to the Chinese culture
      without making it seem too "exotic" or "foreign."

      As a kid, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and great-aunt
      and great-uncles in Chinatown. As I said, we have a big family. There
      were lots of Chinese weddings and one-month parties. Recently, I'm
      sorry to say, there have been too many funerals. All of these things
      have been very traditional Chinese. Pioneer Chinese American families
      really hang on to tradition and culture in a very old-fashioned way.
      In China, traditions changed and evolved over the last 100 years.
      That just wasn't the case with the families who came to America. They
      held on to their traditions as though they were frozen in time.

      Many of my memories are about food. My grandfather loved to cook.
      Because our family was so big, we had lots of banquets. When my
      oldest son went to college, he was very homesick. He would visit the
      girls in the next room, because they had a rice steamer. The smell
      reminded him of home and helped him with his homesickness.

      Anyway, to answer your question, the influence has been in everything
      in my life. It's in how I raise my children, in what I eat, in how I
      remember the people in my family who've died. It's in what I plant in
      my garden and how I decorate my house. I have a western doctor, but
      my main doctor is from China and practices traditional Chinese
      medicine.But because of how I look I will always be "outside." In Los
      Angeles Chinatown, people know me. But when I go to other Chinese
      communities or to China, people see me as an outsider because of how
      I look. When I go into the larger white community here in the U.S.,
      people look at me and talk to me as though I belong, but inside I
      often feel very foreign. In both worlds, I'm a bit outside. I think
      this has made me a better – and certainly more interesting – writer,
      because it really makes me look and feel.

      KH: Having designed a walking tour of LA's Chinatown yourself, what
      places and sights would you recommend for visitors?

      LS: I love the Chinese American Museum, which isn't in Chinatown
      proper. It's at El Pueblo, where Olvera Street is, in one of the last
      of the original buildings of the original Chinatown. They've done a
      great job with their permanent and temporary exhibits. I also highly
      recommend walking the length of the two walk-through streets from
      Broadway up to Chungking Road. My family's stores—the F. See On
      Company and Fong's—are in the block west of Hill Street. Stepping
      into them is like stepping back in time. They have great antiques,
      but also wonderful people, if I do say so myself. My great Uncle Kuen
      is at Fong's. He's 96 years old, sharp as a tack, and filled with
      great stories.

      Chinatown is interesting today because of the juxtaposition of the
      old and then all these trendy art galleries. It's fun just to poke
      around. I love Realm, which has a contemporary take on curios and
      home décor. Somewhere in there, you need to eat, so I'd recommend the
      Empress Pavilion for dim sum, the Mayflower Restaurant on Spring
      Street for dinner, and the Phoenix Bakery for some take-home goodies,
      especially the strawberry and whipped cream cake.

      KH: You are a woman of many talents, involved in your writing as well
      as the community. What kind of projects are you currently working on?

      LS: I liken what I'm working on now to a reverse mirror image of Snow
      Flower. It doesn't have a tile yet, but I'm guessing Peony might be
      in it somewhere. Unfortunately there's no short way to say this, so I
      hope you'll bear with me. The new novel is set in the 17th century in
      the Yangzi Delta. The women there were from the elite class, highly
      educated, but also lived in almost utter seclusion. More women
      writers in that small area were being published than anywhere else in
      the world at that time. This is another one of those things that made
      me think, why didn't I know this and why doesn't everyone else know
      this? It's really remarkable. No other country in the world comes
      remotely close to how advanced China was in this regard.

      There was a subcategory of these women writers called the lovesick
      maidens: sixteen-year-old girls who were obsessed with the opera, The
      Peony Pavilion, caught cases of lovesickness like the heroine in the
      opera, and wrote beautiful poetry as they wasted away and died. The
      new novel is based on a true story of three of those lovesick maidens
      who were married to the same man, who together wrote the first piece
      of literary criticism written by women ever to be published in the
      world. Wu Wushan's Three Wives Commentary of Mudan Ting stayed in
      print in China for 300 years, and yet almost no one knows about it
      today – either in China or in other parts of the world. I'm writing
      it as a ghost story within a ghost story, and I'm using the richness
      and magic of the Chinese afterlife to explore the different
      manifestations of love—mother love, romantic love, erotic love, deep-
      heart love—and how they can transcend death. Ultimately the story is
      about female friendship, the cost of expressing creativity under
      oppressive circumstances, and the desire and need for women to be
      heard—all as timely and pertinent today as they were three centuries
      ago.

      I'm also working on two other China-related projects. The first is a
      young adult book on the history of the Chinese in America. This is a
      completely different kind of project and lets me look at photographs,
      archival materials, and other types of ephemera to help tell the
      history in a way that will be captivating to kids. The other project
      is a calendar for 2008 of photographs from beautiful places in China.
      I'm writing the text.

      KH: LoadedShelf.com is a site dedicated to those who can't help but
      fill their shelves with books, CD, and movies. What is the one thing
      that loads down the shelf of Lisa See?

      LS: These days, the things that are literally loading down my shelves
      are the foreign editions of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. It's
      being published in thirty languages, in hard and soft covers, and in
      some cases large print, on CD and on tape. It's the most of any one
      thing I have on any of my shelves, and it's kind of embarrassing. But
      I bet that wasn't the answer you were looking for.

      I've got lots of books on Chinese art, history, and culture. Most of
      them have long been out of print, so I've spent a lot of time surfing
      the web to find them from all over the world. It's always a treat
      when a new one arrives. I've also got tons of music – lots of Bob
      Dylan, soundtracks, Mexican and South African music, hip hop, operas,
      everything really. But I'm not a big movie collector. I love to go to
      the movies and I probably see about 100 a year, but I rarely feel a
      need to own them. The ones I do own are Top Hat, Aliens, The Matrix,
      and Jules et Jim.


      ============


      Book Review
      Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel
      by Lisa See
      http://www.powells.com/biblio/1400060281


      Synopses & Reviews
      Publisher Comments:
      Lily is haunted by memories — of who she once was, and of a person,
      long gone, who defined her existence. She has nothing but time now,
      as she recounts the tale of Snow Flower, and asks the gods for
      forgiveness.

      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.

      Review:
      "See's engrossing novel set in remote 19th-century China details the
      deeply affecting story of lifelong, intimate friends (laotong,
      or 'old sames') Lily and Snow Flower, their imprisonment by rigid
      codes of conduct for women and their betrayal by pride and love.
      While granting immediacy to Lily's voice, See (Flower Net) adroitly
      transmits historical background in graceful prose. Her in-depth
      research into women's ceremonies and duties in China's rural interior
      brings fascinating revelations about arranged marriages, women's
      inferior status in both their natal and married homes, and the
      Confucian proverbs and myriad superstitions that informed daily life.
      Beginning with a detailed and heartbreaking description of Lily and
      her sisters' foot binding ('Only through pain will you have beauty.
      Only through suffering will you have peace'), the story widens to a
      vivid portrait of family and village life. Most impressive is See's
      incorporation of nu shu, a secret written phonetic code among women —
      here between Lily and Snow Flower — that dates back 1,000 years in
      the southwestern Hunan province ('My writing is soaked with the tears
      of my heart,/ An invisible rebellion that no man can see'). As both a
      suspenseful and poignant story and an absorbing historical chronicle,
      this novel has bestseller potential and should become a reading group
      favorite as well. Agent, Sandra Dijkstra. Author tour. (July)"
      Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business
      Information, Inc.)

      Review:
      "[A] timeless portrait of a contentious, full-blooded female
      friendship, one that includes, over several decades, envy, betrayal,
      erotic love, and deep-seated loyalty. (Grade: A)" Entertainment Weekly

      Review:
      "Taut and vibrant, the story offers a delicately painted view of a
      sequestered world and provides a richly textured account of how women
      might understand their own lives. A keenly imagined journey into the
      women's quarters." Kirkus Reviews

      Review:
      "See's meticulous research and exquisite language deliver a story
      that is haunting, powerful, and, at times, almost too painful to
      bear. Highly recommended." Library Journal

      Review:
      "Lisa See has written her best book yet. Snow Flower and the Secret
      Fan is achingly beautiful, a marvel of imagination of a real and
      secret world that has only recently disappeared. It is a story so
      mesmerizing the pages float away and the story remains clearly before
      us from beginning to end." Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club and
      The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings

      Review:
      "I was mesmerized by this wondrous book — the story of a secret
      civilization of women, who actually lived in China not long
      ago....Magical, haunting fiction. Beautiful." Maxine Hong Kingston,
      author of The Fifth Book of Peace

      Review:
      "Only the best novelists can do what Lisa See has done, to bring to
      life not only a character but an entire culture, and a sensibility so
      strikingly different from our own. This is an engrossing and
      completely convincing portrayal of a woman shaped by suffering forced
      upon her from her earliest years, and of the friendship that helps
      her to survive." Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha

      Synopsis:
      This absorbing novel — unlike anything Lisa See has written before —
      takes place in nineteenth-century China when girls had their feet
      bound, then spent the rest of their lives in seclusion with only a
      single window from which to see. Illiterate and isolated, they were
      not expected to think, be creative, or have emotions. But in one
      remote county, women developed their own secret code, nu shu —
      women's writing — the only gender-based written language to have been
      found in the world. Some girls were paired as old-same 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 windows to share their hopes and
      dreams. An old woman tells of her relationship with her old-same,
      their arranged marriages, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood —
      until a terrible misunderstanding threatens to tear them apart.Snow
      Flower and the Secret Fan delves into one of the most mysterious and
      treasured relationships of all time — female friendship.


      ==========


      Tavis Smiley Interview
      Lisa See
      original airdate August 24, 2007
      http://www.pbs.org/kcet/tavissmiley/archive/200708/20070824_see.html


      Lisa See has been called one of the most significant Asian American
      voices in contemporary writing. Born in Paris, See grew up in Los
      Angeles, where she was active in the cultural affairs of the Chinese
      American community. She shares her fascination with lost stories in
      her books, including the international best seller, Snow Flower and
      the Secret Fan, and, her latest, the China-set fiction, Peony in
      Love. See was previously Publishers Weekly's West Coast correspondent
      and a freelance journalist.


      Tavis: Lisa See is an acclaimed novelist whose previous books
      include "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" and "On Gold Mountain." Her
      latest book is once again a "New York Times" bestseller. The new book
      is called "Peony in Love." Lisa See, nice to have you on the program.

      Lisa See: Thanks for having me.

      Tavis: We were just talking before we came on the air. There are some
      people who say "Peony" and some say "Peony." What do you make of that
      (laughter)?

      See: I don't know. I don't know if that's a regional thing or what,
      but I go with Peony.

      Tavis: I'm sure somebody is going to send me an email. Some expert on
      that word will send me an email saying, "Mr. Smiley, here's exactly
      what it is and why it should be called Peony."

      See: And I hope you forward it to me.

      Tavis: (Laughter) Well, you're the writer. If you're waiting on me to
      help you, you're in a lot of trouble (laughter). But I'm glad to have
      you here. Obviously, you're a great writer, but what is that thread
      through these books that you write that connect to your fan base that
      allow them to hit the "Times" list consistently? What's that thread
      for you? I mean, if I asked John Grisham that question, I'm sure he'd
      have an answer. What's your answer?

      See: I think for me, I always start just from the things that I'm
      most interested in. I'm really interested in these stories that
      happened in the past that are lost, forgotten or sometimes
      deliberately covered up. A lot of that has to do with women's history.

      We think in the past there were no women writers, no women artists,
      no women historians, no women chefs. You could go on and on. But, of
      course, there were women who did these things, but their stories have
      been lost. So for me, it's to go back and find these lost stories and
      then write about them, you know, to fictionalize them.

      So for "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan," I was writing about women in
      China who had invented and used a secret writing system. It's the
      only writing system to have been found anywhere in the world to have
      been used exclusively by women, but they kept it a secret for a
      thousand years.

      With "Peony in Love," I was writing about what were called lovesick
      maidens in China in the mid-seventeenth century. They were part of
      this much larger phenomenon of women writers. There were more women
      writers in this one area of China who were being published than
      altogether in the rest of the world at that time.

      You know, if you think about it, in 1650 there weren't very many
      women being published at that time. But there were over a thousand
      women writers who were writing, being published, traveling all around
      the country in the seventeenth century version of book tours. But
      their stories have been lost, so this is about the true story of
      three of these lovesick maidens, a particular group of these women
      writers.

      Tavis: I want to talk more about this text, "Peony in Love," in just
      a second and the story line here. I did not realize until I started
      delving into the research for this conversation about your past what
      the connection was, what the interest was, in Chinese culture. I get
      it now. You can explain it to those watching who don't know your
      backstory.

      See: Well, I'm part Chinese. My great-great-grandfather came to this
      country to work on the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. My
      great-grandfather stayed here and became the kind of godfather-
      patriarch of Los Angeles's Chinatown. He had four wives, twelve
      children, he was the first Chinese in America to own an automobile.
      He was really a pretty extraordinary man.

      But if you come down to today in Los Angeles, there are about a dozen
      people that look like me, a little bit of a spectrum in between. The
      majority of the family is still full Chinese. I have about four
      hundred relatives here in Los Angeles and I really don't look like I
      belong with the rest of them.

      Tavis: At the family reunion, you kind of stand out (laughter).

      See: I do (laughter).

      Tavis: In these stories, these pieces that you've pulled out to
      create these stories around, about these particular pieces of Chinese
      culture, as I said earlier, they obviously work as a book. What was
      it that interested you, that fascinated you, that made you believe
      that there was something in this culture that could be turned into a
      novel, but that would also be instructive and informative?

      See: Well, I think that you can always go back to the kind of
      emotions and human relationships that we all have, that we all want.
      These lovesick maidens, one of the things they wanted most of all was
      love. Well, of course, that's something we all want today. What they
      also wanted was to be heard. Well, I think we all want that today. We
      all want to be heard for who we are and some of us struggle a lot to
      be able to find that in ourselves, to be heard by outside people.

      So to try to find those universal elements in stories from the past
      that still pertain to today, I think that's what people connect to.
      Of course, that's what I connect to when I'm writing. What I hope
      happens to me as a writer as I'm going through the process will also
      happen to the readers.

      Tavis: Tell me more about this particular story line for "Peony in
      Love." I'm really fascinated by this sixteenth century opera that
      made people lovesick literally.

      See: Right. These young women aged thirteen to sixteen loved an opera
      called "The Peony Pavilion." It's China's greatest love story. It's
      their "Romeo and Juliet." These young women were never allowed to see
      the opera. They could only read it. And when they read it, they would
      catch cases of lovesickness and waste away and die, like the main
      character in the opera.

      This opera tells the story of a young girl who's so protected, so
      cloistered, that she doesn't even know her family owns a garden. One
      day she goes out into the garden, she's so overwhelmed by what she
      sees. She falls asleep, dreams of a young man and, when she wakes up,
      she's in love with him, has a case of lovesickness, wastes away and
      dies.

      But she comes back to earth as a ghost and, in her wanderings, she
      meets that young man she dreamed about and, through true love, he
      brings her back to life. Now in real life, when these girls read this
      story, something did start to happen in their minds.

      These girls, from the moment they were born, were told things
      like, "It's better to have a dog than a daughter," "You're a
      worthless branch on the family tree." They had their feet bound when
      they were five years old, their toes broken, their mid-foot broken,
      their foot really crushed and reshaped until it was about the size of
      your thumb, one inch wide and about three inches long.

      Then they were set up into these arranged marriages at sixteen years
      old where they went sight unseen into their husband's homes where
      they were told, "Have a son, have a son, have a son" and, if they
      didn't have a son, they could be discarded out into the street or
      they could be sold away.

      These young women, when they looked forward into their lives, they
      had no hope that they would ever receive love or that they would ever
      be able to give it. So when they read this opera, they thought
      perhaps in death, maybe only in death, will I find this one emotion,
      this love, will I be able to experience it. This one emotion, again,
      that all of us want even today.

      Tavis: You just hit on it now just briefly, but I want to probe a
      little further. As a writer, why do you find that that L-O-V-E
      subject matter is, by my read, inexhaustible certainly for writers? I
      mean, not just for writes, but for artists, for musicians. It is an
      inexhaustible well of possibility.

      See: Right. Well, you know, it's interesting. In English, we have one
      word to describe this emotion. In Chinese, there are many different
      words to describe the different aspects of love; gratitude love,
      respectful love, pity love, mother love. Mother love is a written
      character composed of two elements. One part means love, the other
      part means pain, but that's a mother's love.

      Of course, there are the kinds of love that we experience when you
      fall in love for the first time and you're infatuated and you're a
      teenager. That's very different than when you decide to get married
      or when you've had children or when you've been married for thirty,
      forty or fifty years. So we have all of these different kinds of love.

      What I think is why we struggle with this a little bit, this idea of
      love, is because it's so full and yet we have just one word. It does
      impact on every part of our lives. I think going back to that idea of
      pity love, respectful love, gratitude love, I can say that and I hope
      you know exactly what I'm talking about. Yet we don't have a word for
      those different kinds of love in the English language.

      Tavis: Although the older I get, the more I realize, at least for me,
      I'm not sure there is a word or words for love. The older I get, at
      least for me, it becomes something that is almost impossible to talk
      about, to write about, and much easier to express. As people, I think
      oftentimes we'd rather do the former than the latter. Write about it,
      talk about it, but not do what it really means to express love to
      everyday people, to other people.

      See: That's right. I think that's true. But again, I think we sort of
      struggle with that as individual people. How do you express it? What
      happens when you're hurt and what happens when you've lost love? Now
      you have to go forward, so I think that's why you find love in books
      and music and theater and movies because we all are looking at it,
      again, inside ourselves.

      Tavis: Let me ask you two quick personal questions before we leave.
      You referenced earlier at least by hand design. You did something
      like this. Do you write in Chinese? Can you write in Chinese?

      See: I can do some characters, not too many.

      Tavis: I was just curious about that. Finally, I want to go back to
      something you said earlier. I suspect there are people watching right
      now who, in all sorts of ethnicities and nationalities and races,
      find themselves the odd person out physically when they gather with
      their families, whether you're Black at a white family reunion or
      whatever the case may be.

      How have you processed that over the years, looking a little
      different than most of the four hundred relatives you have here in
      Los Angeles?

      See: For me, I think so much of my writing - and this doesn't really
      make it into the books, but just the process of writing for me - is
      about looking at that. You know, where do I fit in when I don't look
      like I belong in my family? Do I belong, you know, here? Do I belong
      there? Do I belong anywhere? Do I belong nowhere?

      I actually think that most of us do feel that and it doesn't
      necessarily have to be a racial thing. It can be do you have curly
      hair or straight hair? You're too tall or you're too short? All of us
      sort of struggle with that, I think. So, again, that sense of where
      do I belong and not necessarily belonging, looking like I belong in
      the larger American culture and yet sometimes I don't get it. I just
      don't get what's going on.

      Tavis: Between the two of us, that sounds like a good book idea. I'll
      give my address to you and Random House to send me a check (laughter).

      See: Okay (laughter).

      Tavis: You heard it here first. That's Lisa See's next book. You
      heard the suggestion on the Tavis Smiley Show. Anyway, Lisa See's new
      book on "The New York Times" bestseller list as we speak, "Peony in
      Love," or Peony if you prefer, a novel by Lisa See. Lisa, nice to
      have you on the program. All the best to you.

      See: Thanks so much for having me.


      =======================


      A perfect example of how a family history should be written
      By Julee Rudolf "book snob"
      http://www.amazon.com/review/R1X4Y2TQ8FYL4F


      Genealogy buffs would do well to read this "One-Hundred-Year Odyssey
      of [Lisa See's] Chinese-American History" as an excellent example of
      how to write their own family histories. See, one-eighth Chinese,
      interviewed "close to one hundred people" and with help, found
      historical information from the late 1880s about her great-great
      grandfather's generation on up to her own children by perusing
      documents such as immigration records, photographs, letters, diaries,
      etc., that is, in the usual way. The result, On Gold Mountain "the
      Chinese name for the United States," almost 400 pages in length, is
      an in-depth, well-written account of the happenings in the lives of
      her ancestors, cousins, aunts and uncles. But anyone who knows
      anything about genealogy will agree that while a person's own
      genealogical information is, or can be, quite thrilling, another's is
      usually significantly less so.

      The main "character" of the family history, Fong See, was a
      polygamist. His second marriage, to a white woman (his first,
      unconsummated, was to a young girl in China) created the line from
      which the author descended. He was a merchant by trade who sold
      undergarments to prostitutes (during which he met his Lisa See's
      great-grandmother). Later, he dealt in antiques and other
      merchandise, creating a name for himself both in the Chinatown area
      of Los Angeles and in Dimtao, his home village in China, to which he
      provided monetary assistance.

      While the information on the lives of Chinese immigrants in general
      (including the ever-changing, often discriminatory immigration
      policies) and Fong See in particular, were great reading, the book
      was exceedingly long and overly detailed. I, for one, am not really
      interested in the names and occupations of Ms. See's first cousins.
      And less annoying but worth mentioning is the fact that the book's
      standard format, consistent and chronological, changes dramatically
      at Chapter 11.

      Memories:
      Tyrus Tells His Story reads like a taped interview might sound.

      In Chapter 14, Anna May Speaks (from the Grave) - visit
      http://us_asians.tripod.com/features.-am-wong.html for more info), a
      film star, unrelated to the Sees except as a family friend, complains
      about her mistreatment by the film industry, the Americans, and the
      Chinese.

      Chapter 15, which I like to call The Improperly Edited Chapter,
      contains nine paragraphs beginning with a single word or short phrase
      (Pp 247-250), "Wives," "Children," "Grandchildren," "Business," "More
      business," "Business and family," "The Japanese crisis," "Partners,"
      and "Life story." Lastly, the inclusion of a reference to
      California's Prop 187 (p 355) "Through Proposition 187, illegal
      immigrants would be barred from receiving any state funds; this meant
      no education, no welfare, and no medical care, except in dire
      emergencies," seems a bit unfair. China's policies concerning illegal
      immigrants are certainly much stricter than the USA's.

      In summary, Lisa See is a very good storyteller, has produced a great
      example of a family history and a tribute to her ancestors, but the
      audience of interest for the overly long overly detailed On Gold
      Mountain is likely limited to Fong Dun Shung's descendants, fans of
      the historical aspects of Chinese immigration to America (or their
      life in America) during the late 1880s and early 1900s, and genealogy
      buffs. And if I weren't part of the last category, I'd have either
      quit the book or slogged through and given it only two stars. Better:
      The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan, the Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy
      Tan, and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See.


      ==========


      On Gold Mountain
      http://www.lisasee.com/ongoldmountain.htm


      When she was a girl, Lisa See spent summers in the cool, dark
      recesses of her family's antiques store in Los Angeles Chinatown.
      There, her grandmother and great-aunt told her intriguing, colorful
      stories about their family's past- stories of missionaries,
      concubines, tong wars, glamorous nightclubs, and the determined
      struggle to triumph over racist laws and discrimination. They spoke
      of how Lisa's great-great-grandfather emigrated from his Chinese
      village to the United States to work on the building of the
      transcontinental railroad as an herbalist; how his son followed him,
      married a Caucasian woman, and despite great odds, went on to become
      one of the most prominent Chinese on "Gold Mountain" (the Chinese
      name for the United States).

      As an adult, See spent five years collecting the details of her
      family's remarkable history. She interviewed nearly one hundred
      relatives- both Chinese and Caucasian, rich and poor- and pored over
      documents at the National Archives and several historical societies,
      and searched in countless attics, basements, and closets for the
      intimate nuances of her ancestors' lives.

      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 bestseller and a New York Times
      Notable Book. It is the inspiration for an exhibition at the Autry
      Museum of Western Heritage, which will run from August 2000 to
      January 2001. Lisa See is also writing a libretto based on the book
      for the Los Angeles Opera, which will premiere as a community opera
      in May 2000.


      =============


      Fong See
      A Century of Untold Tales
      Author Lisa See visits GCC with family history's `Gold' as part of
      the Lang Lecture Series.
      Michael J. Arvizu
      http://media.www.elvaq.com/media/storage/paper925/news/2002/03/07/News
      /A.Century.Of.Untold.Tales-2533110.shtml


      A great-grandfather's journey to the Gold Mountain
      A white woman and a Chinese man in a forbidden love.

      A successful business venture in the underwear industry.

      And a deadbeat great-great-grandfather.

      Lisa See, author of "Flower Net" (Harper Collins, 1995)
      and "Interior" (Harper Collins, 1997), spoke about these family
      events and others to a capacity crowd in Kreider Hall on Feb. 28. Her
      book,

      "On Gold Mountain: The One Hundred Year Odyssey of My Chinese-
      American Family" (St. Martin's Press, 1995), chronicles the last 100
      years of See's family

      "On Gold Mountain" is a collection of five years' worth of interviews
      See conducted with at least 100 members of her family, both Caucasian
      and Chinese, that allowed her to piece together her family's past. It
      tells the story of how her great-grandfather Fong See emigrated from
      China to the place known as "Gold Mountain" (the U.S.), how he
      married a white woman, and of his rise to become one of the most
      prominent Chinese in the country.

      In interviews with her family, See learned that getting them to talk
      about the past is difficult. The excuse that she heard most from her
      family was that it was boring to talk about the past. However, See
      was on to them. Some parts of the past are just too painful to
      discuss.

      For example, the way her family immigrated to the U.S. was
      sometimes, "all-out illegal," said See.

      "They had a lot of shame and embarrassment about things that had
      happened," said See. This was the case for at least 100 years. It
      wasn't until 13 years ago that a friend wanted to include See's
      family in a book she was writing about prominent Chinese American
      families in that would send See on a quest back in time.

      See contacted her great-aunt to whom she explained the project. She
      refused See's invitation to talk "We don't participate in things like
      that," her great-aunt said.

      See, therefore, didn't think much of it after that. It wasn't until
      the book came out two years later on the eve of her great-aunt's 80th
      birthday that this woman realized that she had made a mistake in
      refusing to talk. The day after, See received a call from her great-
      aunt's daughter with an invitation.

      On the day of her visit, she learned things about her family that she
      had never heard before. She learned about things she thought she had
      understood, only to find otherwise, as in learning that her
      grandfather had not had two wi<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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