Random House: Bringing You the Best in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Children's Books
Authors
Books
Features
Newletters and Alerts

Buy now from Random House

  • Shanghai Girls
  • Written by Lisa See
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780812980530
  • Our Price: $16.00
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - Shanghai Girls

Buy now from Random House

  • Shanghai Girls
  • Written by Lisa See
  • Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9781400067114
  • Our Price: $25.00
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - Shanghai Girls

Buy now from Random House

  • Shanghai Girls
  • Written by Lisa See
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9781588368607
  • Our Price: $9.99
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - Shanghai Girls

Buy now from Random House

  • Shanghai Girls
  • Written by Lisa See
    Read by Janet Song
  • Format: Unabridged Compact Disc | ISBN: 9780739359334
  • Our Price: $39.95
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - Shanghai Girls

Buy now from Random House

  • Shanghai Girls
  • Written by Lisa See
    Read by Janet Song
  • Format: Unabridged Audiobook Download | ISBN: 9780739359341
  • Our Price: $20.00
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - Shanghai Girls

Shanghai Girls

    Select a Format:
  • Book
  • eBook
  • Audiobook

A Novel

Written by Lisa SeeAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Lisa See



eBook

List Price: $9.99

eBook

On Sale: May 26, 2009
Pages: | ISBN: 978-1-58836-860-7
Published by : Random House Random House Group

Audio Editions

$39.95

Published by: Random House Audio

Read by Janet Song
On Sale: May 26, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7393-5933-4
More Info...

Read by Janet Song
On Sale: May 26, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7393-5934-1
More Info...
Listen to an excerpt
Visit RANDOM HOUSE AUDIO to learn more about audiobooks.


Shanghai Girls Cover

Bookmark,
Share & Shelve:

  • Add This - Shanghai Girls
  • Email this page - Shanghai Girls
  • Print this page - Shanghai Girls
ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PRAISE PRAISE
READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
EVENTS EVENTS
» see more tags
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

In 1937 Shanghai—the Paris of Asia—twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree—until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth. To repay his debts, he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides. As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, from the Chinese countryside to the shores of America. Though inseparable best friends, the sisters also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. Along the way they make terrible sacrifices, face 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.

Excerpt

Chapter One


Beautiful Girls


"our daughter looks like a South China peasant with those red cheeks," my father complains, pointedly ignoring the soup before him. "Can't you do something about them?"

Mama stares at Baba, but what can she say? My face is pretty enough- some might even say lovely-but not as luminescent as the pearl I'm named for. I tend to blush easily. Beyond that, my cheeks capture the sun. When I turned five, my mother began rubbing my face and arms with pearl creams, and mixing ground pearls into my morning jook-rice porridge-hoping the white essence would permeate my skin. It hasn't worked. Now my cheeks burn red-exactly what my father hates. I shrink down into my chair. I always slump when I'm near him, but I slump even more on those occasions when Baba takes his eyes off my sister to look at me. I'm taller than my father, which he loathes. We live in Shanghai, where the tallest car, the tallest wall, or the tallest building sends a clear and unwavering message that the owner is a person of great importance. I am not a person of importance.

"She thinks she's smart," Baba goes on. He wears a Western-style suit of good cut. His hair shows just a few strands of gray. He's been anxious lately, but tonight his mood is darker than usual. Perhaps his favorite horse didn't win or the dice refused to land his way. "But one thing she isn't is clever."

This is another of my father's standard criticisms and one he picked up from Confucius, who wrote, "An educated woman is a worthless woman." People call me bookish, which even in 1937 is not considered a good thing. But as smart as I am, I don't know how to protect myself from my father's words.

Most families eat at a round dining table, so they will always be whole and connected, with no sharp edges. We have a square teakwood table, and we always sit in the exact same places: my father next to May on one side of the table, with my mother directly across from her so that my parents can share my sister equally. Every meal-day after day, year after year-is a reminder that I'm not the favorite and never will be.

As my father continues to pick at my faults, I shut him out and pretend an interest in our dining room. On the wall adjoining the kitchen, four scrolls depicting the four seasons usually hang. Tonight they've been removed, leaving shadow outlines on the wall. They aren't the only things missing. We used to have an overhead fan, but this past year Baba thought it would be more luxurious to have servants fan us while we ate. They aren't here tonight and the room is sweltering. Ordinarily an art deco chandelier and matching wall sconces of etched yellow-and-rose-tinted glass illuminate the room. These are missing as well. I don't give any of this much thought, assuming that the scrolls have been put away to prevent their silken edges from curling in the humidity, that Baba has given the servants a night off to celebrate a wedding or birthday with their own families, and that the lighting fixtures have been temporarily taken down for cleaning.

Cook-who has no wife and children of his own-removes our soup bowls and brings out dishes of shrimp with water chestnuts, pork stewed in soy sauce with dried vegetables and bamboo shoots, steamed eel, an eight-treasures vegetable dish, and rice, but the heat swallows my hunger. I would prefer a few sips of chilled sour plum juice, cold mint-flavored sweet green bean soup, or sweet almond broth.

When Mama says, "The basket repairer charged too much today," I relax. If my father is predictable in his criticisms of me, then it's equally predictable that my mother will recite her daily woes. She looks elegant, as always. Amber pins hold the bun at the back of her neck perfectly in place. Her gown, a cheongsam made of midnight blue silk with midlength sleeves, has been expertly tailored to fit her age and status. A bracelet carved from a single piece of good jade hangs from her wrist. The thump of it when it hits the table edge is comforting and familiar. She has bound feet, and some of her ways are just as antiquated. She questions our dreams, weighing the meaning of the presence of water, shoes, or teeth as good or bad omens. She believes in astrology, blaming or praising May and me for one thing or another because we were born in the Year of the Sheep and the Year of the Dragon, respectively.

Mama has a lucky life. Her arranged marriage to our father seems relatively peaceful. She reads Buddhist sutras in the morning, takes a rickshaw to visit friends for lunch, plays mah-jongg until late in the day, and commiserates with wives of similar station about the weather, the indolence of servants, and the ineffectiveness of the latest remedies for their hiccups, gout, or hemorrhoids. She has nothing to fret about, but her quiet bitterness and persistent worry infuse every story she tells us. "There are no happy endings," she often recites. Still, she's beautiful, and her lily gait is as delicate as the swaying of young bamboo in a spring breeze.

"That lazy servant next door was sloppy with the Tso family's nightstool and stunk up the street with their nightsoil," Mama says. "And Cook!" She allows herself a low hiss of disapproval. "Cook has served us shrimp so old that the smell has made me lose my appetite."

We don't contradict her, but the odor suffocating us comes not from spilled nightsoil or day-old shrimp but from her. Since we don't have our servants to keep the air moving in the room, the smell that rises from the blood and pus that seep through the bandages holding Mama's feet in their tiny shape clings to the back of my throat.

Mama is still filling the air with her grievances when Baba interrupts. "You girls can't go out tonight. I need to talk to you."

He speaks to May, who looks at him and smiles in that beautiful way of hers. We aren't bad girls, but we have plans tonight, and being lectured by Baba about how much water we waste in our baths or the fact that we don't eat every grain of rice in our bowls isn't part of them. Usually Baba reacts to May's charm by smiling back at her and forgetting his concerns, but this time he blinks a few times and shifts his black eyes to me. Again, I sink in my chair. Sometimes I think this is my only real form of filial piety, making myself small before my father. I consider myself to be a modern Shanghai girl. I don't want to believe in all that obey, obey, obey stuff girls were taught in the past. But the truth is, May-as much as they adore her- and I are just girls. No one will carry on the family name, and no one will worship our parents as ancestors when the time comes. My sister and I are the end of the Chin line. When we were very young, our lack of value meant our parents had little interest in controlling us. We weren't worth the trouble or effort. Later, something strange happened: my parents fell in love-total, besotted love-with their younger daughter. This allowed us to retain a certain amount of liberty, with the result that my sister's spoiled ways are often ignored, as is our sometimes flagrant disregard for respect and duty. What others might call unfilial and disrespectful, we call modern and unbound.

"You aren't worth a single copper coin," Baba says to me, his tone sharp. "I don't know how I'm ever going to-"

"Oh, Ba, stop picking on Pearl. You're lucky to have a daughter like her. I'm luckier still to have her as my sister."

We all turn to May. She's like that. When she speaks, you can't help listening to her. When she's in the room, you can't help looking at her. Everyone loves her-our parents, the rickshaw boys who work for my father, the missionaries who taught us in school, the artists, revolutionaries, and foreigners whom we've come to know these last few years.

"Aren't you going to ask me what I did today?" May asks, her demand as light and breezy as a bird's wings in flight.

With that, I disappear from my parents' vision. I'm the older sister, but in so many ways May takes care of me.

"I went to see a movie at the Metropole and then I went to Avenue Joffre to buy shoes," she continues. "From there it wasn't far to Madame Garnet's shop in the Cathay Hotel to pick up my new dress." May lets a touch of reproach creep into her voice. "She said she won't let me have it until you come to call."

"A girl doesn't need a new dress every week," Mama says gently. "You could be more like your sister in this regard. A Dragon doesn't need frills, lace, and bows. Pearl's too practical for all that."

"Baba can afford it," May retorts.

My father's jaw tightens. Is it something May said, or is he getting ready to criticize me again? He opens his mouth to speak, but my sister cuts him off.

"Here we are in the seventh month and already the heat is unbearable. Baba, when are you sending us to Kuling? You don't want Mama and me to get sick, do you? Summer brings such unpleasantness to the city, and we're always happier in the mountains at this time of year."

May has tactfully left me out of her questions. I prefer to be an afterthought. But all her chattering is really just a way to distract our parents. My sister catches my eye, nods almost imperceptibly, and quickly stands. "Come, Pearl. Let's get ready."

I push back my chair, grateful to be saved from my father's disapproval.

"No!" Baba pounds his fist on the table. The dishes rattle. Mama shivers in surprise. I freeze in place. People on our street admire my father for his business acumen. He's lived the dream of every native-born Shanghainese, as well as every Shanghailander-those foreigners who've come here from around the world to find their fortunes. He started with nothing and turned himself and his family into something. Before I was born, he ran a rickshaw business in Canton, not as an owner but as a subcontractor, who rented rickshaws at seventy cents a day and then rented them to a minor subcontractor at ninety cents a day before they were rented to the rickshaw pullers at a dollar a day. After he made enough money, he moved us to Shanghai and opened his own rickshaw business. "Better opportunities," he-and probably a million others in the city-likes to say. Baba has never told us how he became so wealthy or how he earned those opportunities, and I don't have the courage to ask. Everyone agrees-even in families-that it's better not to inquire about the past, because everyone in Shanghai has come here to get away from something or has something to hide.

May doesn't care about any of that. I look at her and know exactly what she wants to say: I don't want to hear you tell us you don't like our hair. I don't want to hear that you don't want us to show our bare arms or too much of our legs. No, we don't want to get "regular full-time jobs." You may be my father, but for all your noise you're a weak man and I don't want to listen to you. Instead, she just tilts her head and looks down at my father in such a way that he's powerless before her. She learned this trick as a toddler and has perfected it as she's gotten older. Her ease, her effortlessness, melts everyone. A slight smile comes to her lips. She pats his shoulder, and his eyes are drawn to her fingernails, which, like mine, have been painted and stained red by applying layers of red balsam blossom juice. Touching-even in families-isn't completely taboo, but it certainly isn't accepted. A good and proper family offer no kisses, no hugs, no pats of affection. So May knows exactly what she's doing when she touches our father. In his distraction and repulsion, she spins away, and I hurry after her. We've taken a few steps when Baba calls out.

"Please don't go."

But May, in her usual way, just laughs. "We're working tonight. Don't wait up."

I follow her up the stairs, our parents' voices accompanying us in a kind of discordant song. Mama carries the melody: "I pity your husbands. 'I need shoes.' 'I want a new dress.' 'Will you buy us tickets to the opera?' " Baba, in his deeper voice, beats out the bass: "Come back here. Please come back. I need to tell you something." May ignores them, and I try to, admiring the way she closes her ears to their words and insistence. We're opposites in this and so many things.

Whenever you have two sisters-or siblings of any number or either sex- comparisons are made. May and I were born in Yin Bo Village, less than a half day's walk from Canton. We're only three years apart, but we couldn't be more different. She's funny; I'm criticized for being too somber. She's tiny and has an adorable fleshiness to her; I'm tall and thin. May, who just graduated from high school, has no interest in reading anything beyond the gossip columns; I graduated from college five weeks ago.

My first language was Sze Yup, the dialect spoken in the Four Districts in Kwangtung province, where our ancestral home is located. I've had American and British teachers since I was five, so my English is close to perfect. I consider myself fluent in four languages-British English, American English, the Sze Yup dialect (one of many Cantonese dialects), and the Wu dialect (a unique version of Mandarin spoken only in Shanghai). I live in an international city, so I use English words for Chinese cities and places like Canton, Chungking, and Yunnan; I use the Cantonese cheongsam instead of the Mandarin ch'i pao for our Chinese dresses; I say boot instead of trunk; I use the Mandarin fan gwaytze-foreign devils-and the Cantonese lo fan-white ghosts-interchangeably when speaking about foreigners; and I use the Cantonese word for little sister-moy moy- instead of the Mandarin-mei mei-to talk about May. My sister has no facility with languages. We moved to Shanghai when May was a baby, and she never learned Sze Yup beyond words for certain dishes and ingredients. May knows only English and the Wu dialect. Leaving the peculiarities of dialects aside, Mandarin and Cantonese have about as much in common as English and German-related but unintelligible to nonspeakers. Because of this, my parents and I sometimes take advantage of May's ignorance, using Sze Yup to trick and deceive her.


From the Hardcover edition.
Lisa See|Author Q&A

About Lisa See

Lisa See - Shanghai Girls
Lisa See is the New York Times bestselling author of Peony in Love, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, 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.

Author Q&A

Even Then, It Was a Step into the Past  


From the Los Angeles Times, May 31, 2009, by Lisa See
 

Almost all writers write about place. Los Angeles writers are no exception. Walter Mosley, Michael Jaime-Becerra, and Janet Fitch, to name a few, capture the intimate details of very specific neighborhoods. Sometimes the sense of place is so strong that the natural topography, the streets and what’s on them, become as fully realized as a living, breathing character. The neighborhood I write about is Chinatown. Yes, a lot of my novels take place in China, but those stories wouldn’t—couldn’t— have been written if not for Chinatown. 

I lived with my mother, Carolyn See, when I was growing up. We moved eight times before I turned nine, so Chinatown, where my paternal grandparents and my grandfather’s brothers and sister worked in the family antiques store, became home base for me. To my eyes, Chinatown didn’t change. More than that, my Chinese American relatives didn’t move or change either. Rather, they were very much stuck in the past. It was a past that entranced me when I was a child; it’s a past I long for every day, and one I got to write about in Shanghai Girls. 

Shanghai Girls
is about two sisters who leave China and come to Los Angeles in arranged marriages in 1938. There were four Chinatowns in Los Angeles at that time: New Chinatown—with its neon lights and gaily painted buildings on Broadway; City Market Chinatown—for produce sellers and their families; Old Chinatown—comprised of the few buildings that survived the demolition required to build Union Station; and China City—a tourist attraction bordered by Ord, Spring, Main, and Macy streets. Pearl and May, my fictional sisters, live in the Garnier Building in Old Chinatown, where the Chinese American Museum is today, and they work in China City. 

China City was supposed to be an “authentic” Chinese city, but was pure fantasy and stereotype. It was surrounded by a miniature Great Wall and built out of sets left over from the filming of The Good Earth. Visitors could ride rickshaws down the Passage of One Hundred Surprises, nibble on Chinaburgers, or drink pirate grog at the Chinese Junk Café (constructed from the old set for Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife). For all its wacky charm, China City was an ill-fated place, which is how I came to be connected to it. Much of it burned less than a year after it opened. It was rebuilt only to catch fire again ten years later. In 1949, China City closed. Within a few years, my family moved their antique store, the F. Suie One Co., into China City’s last remaining large building. As a little girl, stepping into the store was like stepping into another time and place. Two large marble lions flanked the moon gate, where every day my grandfather rolled a rickshaw out to the curb to attract customers. The long central hall was edged by what had once been some of China City’s little stores and kiosks. There were upturned eaves, an old wishing well, and the remnants of a goldfish pond. 

The store itself was filled with Asian antiques, with separate rooms for bronzes, textiles, and ceramics. It was a beautiful place filled with extraordinary objects and redolent of teak, moth balls, and incense, but I was afraid of the warehouse, which was dark and seemed to have shadowy things lurking in the corners. I also got nervous whenever I had to go to the workroom with its roar of saws, gorgeous Chinese calendar girls on the walls advertising this or that Chinatown café, and clouds of sawdust. My grandfather and great-uncles were partly deaf and missing fingers because they didn’t use safety equipment. 

My parents were in graduate school back then and they seemed very smart. But my Chinese relatives had a different kind of knowledge that still impresses me. My great-grandfather was a south China peasant. This meant, among other things, that his children were raised to be frugal. They knew how to turn an empty 5-gallon soy sauce can into a dustpan or make and use asphalt to “antique” baskets to sell as curios. They also knew what was important: food and family, maybe in that order. .

For lunch, we ate homemade char siu sandwiches, or my grandfather would take me up Ord and across Spring to what he called “the little place,” where we would pick up cha nau (what is now more familiarly known as dim sum). Sometimes my grandmother took me to visit Blackie at the Sam Sing Butcher Shop with its life-size gold-leafed pig in the window, to chat with Margaret at the International Grocery, or to look in the window of Yee Mee Loo, which I believe was the first restaurant in the city to have an open kitchen. In the long afternoons, my grandmother and Aunt Sissee would tell stories about Old Chinatown and China City, gossip about upcoming weddings or one-month parties, or indulge in a little trash talking about New Chinatown, where some of our other relatives had stores and restaurants that “we” considered too touristy. 

After the 1971 Sylmar earthquake, my family’s store and many other buildings along Spring Street were condemned. What had once been China City was officially wiped off the map. My family moved the F. Suie One Co. to Pasadena, where it’s celebrating its 112th year in business. 

But my grandparents, all the aunts and uncles and their spouses, are gone now. What used to be called New Chinatown is now Old Chinatown. My great-grandfather’s second family and my great-grandfather’s uncle’s sons still have stores there, but they are surrounded by trendy art galleries. Although a lot of old-timers don’t look upon the galleries with much pleasure, I don’t have anything against them, except that they aren’t from my childhood—and how silly and self-absorbed is that? I can’t help it, though. I know that all the people and places on the Chinese side of my family who have meant so much to me and who have given me the voice and courage to write will be gone within a few years. That feeling of loss—for my childhood memories of Chinatown; for no longer being able to hear my uncles’ stories of the various Chinatowns; for no longer having people who know exactly where I fit into the huge Fong See family tree; for no longer being able to slow down to that old country pace with people who know how to convert a soy sauce container into a handy-dandy dustpan; and for no longer having a place where I can enter through a moon gate, step into another world, and just be—became the emotional heart of Shanghai Girls

Thomas Wolfe wrote, “You can’t go home again,” and for some that may be true. Here, in Southern California, almost all of us have come from somewhere else. We’ve all had someone in our families who was brave enough, scared enough, or crazy enough to leave their home countries—or their childhood in any of the other forty-nine states—to come here. Some people peel off layers of the past and abandon them in the same way pioneers threw excess weight from their covered wagons. But as they say, you can run but you can’t hide. No matter how far we go, and I haven’t strayed very far myself, we still carry our homes and pasts, for good and bad, in our hearts. 

Writing about the fictional Pearl and May in Shanghai Girls allowed me to step back to a time before I was born, to places I’ve loved, and to spend time in the way that only writers can with fragments of people— their stories, the lilt of their laughs, the way they move across the floor— who are gone from me now. I’ll carry those people and places with me forever, and they’ll always be a part of my writing, whether it’s in a story set in a small Chinese village or one set right here in Los Angeles Chinatown. 

Praise

Praise

“See is a gifted writer, and in Shanghai Girls she again explores the bonds of sisterhood while powerfully evoking the often nightmarish American immigrant experience.”—USA Today

“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

“The glamour of prewar Shanghai is recalled in Lisa See’s deftly plotted Shanghai Girls.”Vogue

“Splendid”—More

“An engrossing tale of two sisters.”–Time.com

Shanghai Girls is one of those books I could not wait to continue reading, because her characters' stories are so compellingly told.”—St. Louis Dispatch

“As in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love, she has in her latest novel created ordinary women who, through willfulness and resiliency, accomplish extraordinary things…See, whose writing is as graceful as these '’beautiful girls,'’ pulls off another exceptional novel.”–Miami Herald


From the Hardcover edition.
Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. Pearl’s narration is unique because of its level, calm tone throughout— even when the events she describes are horrific. One is reminded of Wordsworth’s reference to “emotion recollected in tranquility.” It is almost as if Pearl is writing in a diary. What was Lisa See trying to accomplish in setting up this counterpoint between her tone and her narrative?

 2. Pearl is a Dragon and May is a Sheep. Do you think the two sisters, in their actions in the novel, are true to their birth signs? 

3. Which sister is smarter? Which is more beautiful? 

4. Each sister believes that her parents loved the other sister more. Who is right about this? Why? 

5. Pearl says that parents die, husbands and children can leave, but sisters are for life. Does that end up being true for Pearl? If you have a sister, to what extent does the relationship between Pearl and May speak to your own experience? What’s the difference between a relationship that’s “just like sisters” and a relationship between real sisters? Is there anything your sister could do that would cause an irreparable breach? 

6. Z.G. talks about ai kuo, the love for your country, and ai jen, the emotion you feel for the person you love. How do these ideas play out in the novel? 

7. Shanghai Girls makes a powerful statement about the mistreatment of Chinese immigrants in the United States. Were you surprised about any of the details in the novel related to this theme? 

8. How would you describe the relationship between Pearl and May? How does the fact that both are, in a sense, Joy’s mother affect their relationship? Who loves Joy more and how does she show it? 

9. Pearl doesn’t come to mother-love easily or naturally. At what point does she begin to claim Joy as her own? How, where, and why does she continue to struggle with the challenges of being a mother? Do you think this is an accurate portrayal of motherhood? 

10. There are times when it seems like outside forces conspire against Pearl—leaving China, working in the restaurant, not finding a job after the war, and taking care of Vern. How much of what happens to Pearl is a product of her own choices? 

11. Pearl’s attitude toward men and the world in general is influenced by what happened to her in the shack outside Shanghai. To what extent does she find her way to healing by the end of the novel? Did your attitude toward Old Man Louie change? How do you feel about Sam and his relationship with Pearl and Joy? Did your impression of him change as the novel progressed? 

12. The novel begins with Pearl saying, “I am not a person of importance” (p. 3). After Yen-yen dies, Pearl comments: “Her funeral is small. After all, she was not a person of importance, rather just a wife and mother” (p. 246). How do you react to comments like these? 

13. Speaking of Yen-yen, Pearl notes: “When we’re packing, Yen-yen says she’s tired. She sits down on the couch in the main room and dies” (p. 246). Why does Pearl describe Yen-yen’s death in such an abrupt way? 

14. After Joy points out the differences in the way Z.G. painted her mother and aunt in the Communist propaganda posters, May says, “Everything always returns to the beginning” (p. 267). Pearl has her idea of what May meant, but what do you think May really meant? And what is Pearl’s understanding of this saying at the end of the novel? 

15. Near the end of Shanghai Girls, May argues that Pearl and Sam have withdrawn into a world of fear and isolation, not taking advantage of the opportunities open to them. Do you agree with May that much of Pearl’s sadness and isolation is self-imposed? Why or why not? 

16. How do clothes define Pearl and May in different parts of the story? How do the sisters use clothes to manipulate others? 

17. How does food serve as a gateway to memory in the novel? How does it illustrate culture and tradition both in the novel and in your own family? 

18. What influence—if any—do Mama’s beliefs have on Pearl? How do they evolve over time? 

19. Pearl encounters a lot of racism, but she also holds many racist views herself. Is she a product of her time? Do her attitudes change during the course of the story? 

20. What role does place—Shanghai, Angel Island, China City, and Chinatown—serve in the novel? What do you think Lisa See was trying to say about “home”? 

Lisa See

Lisa See Events>

Lisa See - Shanghai Girls
7/28/2014
295 Maine Street C101
Edwards, CO 81632
6:00 PM
Confirmed
Map It
7/29/2014
1289 Lincoln Avenue
Steamboat Springs, CO 80487
7:00 PM
Confirmed
Map It

Your E-Mail Address
send me a copy

Recipient's E-Mail Address
(multiple addresses may be separated by commas)

A personal message: