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Shanghai Girls Lisa’s See’s new novel Shanghai Girls provides a rich experience for its readers – taking them from the splendor highlife glamour and poverty of 1937 Shanghai to the struggles of Chinese immigrants to survive a virtual internment on Angel Island off the coast of San Francisco to the almost impossible challenges of trying to build a life in Los Angeles Chinatown in the context of an America that does not want them and treats them cruellyBut despite its rich background Shanghai Girls is ultimately the story of two sisters – Pearl and May – who desperately strive to help each other survive and at the same time replay in their minds and actions old rivalries jealousies and hurts The summary of the book on See’s web site puts it well “They love each other but they also know exactly where to drive the knife to hurt the other sister the most” This is most dramatically shown in the novel’s climaxPearl speaking in first person is the narrator taking us from 1937 to 1957 This time period matches Parts IV and V of See’s On Gold Mountain The One Hundred Year Odyssey of My Chinese American Family The perspectives are different however In the memoir See is scrupulously objective in treatment family members herself and issues very close to her Pearl lets us experience some of the same American experiences but from a different perspective and from the insideLate in the novel Pearl reflects “We’re told that men are strong and brave but I think women know how to endure accept defeat and bear physical and mental agony much better than men” This is certainly true of Pearl herselfGrowing up in Shanghai the Paris of Asia Pearl and her sister May live lives of privilege Being a Dragon Pearl is seen by her parents as a fiery strong daughter who can take care of her self absorbed Sheep sister By the time she is 21 Pearl and May enjoy the status of being Beautiful Girls Pearl rather insensitive to those who serve her and her wealthy familyBut then Pearl’s journey into suffering begins Her father loses his money in gambling debts and the sisters are forced into arranged marriages The Japanese attack China and Shanghai is attacked by air and the country invaded In the process Pearl and her mother are brutalized by Japanese soldiers and her mother is killedHaving lost everything Pearl and May are forced to flee to America to find their husbands Surviving a grueling stay at Angel Island the Ellis Island of the West Pearl can only hope that her husband Sam and his family will accept her since she is bringing with her a new born daughter named JoyMuch of Shanghai Girls centers on Pearl’s attempt to adjust to life as a member of the Louie family While May seeks happiness outside the home in her new country especially in terms of her many associations with the glitzy world of Hollywood Pearl sees her life as unending drudgery as she is locked into a routine of cleaning and cooking working in her father in law’s various business enterprises and caring for Joy In addition she is largely responsible for caring for Vern May’s young and critically ill husbandAlthough her father in law gradually comes to include Pearl May and Joy as true members of his family Pearl grows closer to her mother in law and discovers that her lower class husband is indeed an Ox in the truest sense deeply loving and caring for his family her new Christian and much older Chinese values are tested by the terrors of the McCarthy era of anti communism accompanied by serious mistreatment of most Chinese peopleAt the end of the novel the two sisters directly confront each other at last venting all the anger and hurt each has repressed previously Despite being very angry at May for what Pearl feels are very good reasons May’s attacks and self defense make her realize that she may have been mistaken in many of her core beliefs over the yearsBut finally it is Joy who saves Pearl When she reaches the point where she will give up everything for Joy Pearl truly becomes her mother’s daughter and in the process becomes the Dragon she was meant to be I can't believe I didn't write a review on this Lisa See book This is one of my favorite historical books she wrote There is a fascinating story in here that many people know very little about The plot revolves around two sisters their privilege life breaks down 1930's Shanghai Their father sell them to loveless marriages The 'history' of horrific prejudice immigration coming to America was no jokeAfter I had read this not light and fluffy a front page article in our local newspaper was a true story about an Asian man he was in his 90's living in SF speaking for the 'very first' time when he came over to Angel Island Even though this booksI fiction there is a lot to learn about how it really was for Chinese immigrants during the mid 50's and it's not a pretty picture We should have been deeply ashamed of ourselves Excellent novel 35 STARSOMG These girls dad sucks This reminds me of one of her other books with the fatherTRIGGER WARNING GANG RAPE BEATING OF AN OLD WOMAN AND HER TEENAGE DAUGHTERSPOILERSI liked the story it did kind of remind me of Snow Flower And The Secret Fan in ways but I liked that book a lot better I can't put my finger on what I didn't love about this book I guess it just seemed to drag a little bit for me I have to admit that I almost threw the book when I got to the rape part of the book I skimmed as much as I could because I don't read that kind of stuff Not word for word at any rate Pearl and May were having a good life being models until one day their father said he gambled all of his money away including the girls money he was keeping for them and that he sold them to the man he owed Old Man Louie They were to marry his sons Sam and Vern I slip down next to May I can't believe Mama is willing to ship us to America to cure my father's and her problems But then isn't that the kind of thing Chinese parents have done with worthless daughters for thousands of years abandoned them sold them used them?Pearl and May decided not to go but then some goons were sent after them during the midst of a war going on with the Japanese Pearl and May promised they would go and they had a really hard time getting their tickets changed Lets just say that didn't work out One night their father didn't return home so their mother hired a boy to take them as far as he could Pearl May and their mom ended up in who knows where and they were attacked Their mom told them to stay hidden in a room but Pearl came out when she realized their mom was being raped and beaten repeatedly by the Japanese They even unbound her feet her feet were done in the old tradition and stomped on them too I couldn't really read through much of this Pearl was raped repeatedly as well When they were gone their mom dragged herself over to Pearl and held her and talked to her until Pearl passed out and her mom died Later May came out and got a wheelbarrow and carried Pearl a great distance and got them on a boat She got Pearl to a hospital where they had to do several surgeries on Pearl and said she would never have kids I just have one thing to say about any kind of rapist ↓Pearl and May finally make it to America to be with their husbands They had to stay where they were for some time until May had her baby Yes she did the deed with someone and they passed it off as Pearl's baby Pearl named her Joy So the book goes on to tell of their lives in America There are so many revelations and a lot of sadness I felt so bad for these people So many that were involved in such atrocities But anyway I have the seuel and it's about Joy I'm hoping something wonderful happens with Joy in that book after all of the stuff she found out at the end of this book Something good has to come out of it all MY BLOG Melissa Martin's Reading List This book was very disappointing I went into it eager to learn about this point in history and this should have been a good book considering the premise of the story I think it started out well and the family and events in China held my interest and seemed well defined Still the tragedies never felt that compelling and even what should have outraged me when they arrived in the US never had the impact they would have if better written I should have gotten angry I should have cried I should have felt for the characters The book evolved into a long narrative that just seemed to state dates and facts without any depth and then finally reveals what was the obvious plot point all along Did we ever know the Uncles? Vern? The girls friends? Sam? NO only as Pearl and May see them not a real people I would like to have read this story a good one written by a different author And I agree with the other reviewer who stated that the abrupt ending seems to just be setting up a seuel Think I'll pass on that if it does happen I really disliked this book and I'm extra disappoined about it because I loved Snow Flower and the Secret Fan so muchIt starts out OK with the depiction of Shanghai but never did anything to make me feel a connection to the characters Pearl is just pure unadulterated grouch and May is a completly selfish jerk or is she? the last few pages make me wonder if she's fine but grouchy Pearl made me hate herMost of the book is just a boring list of things that happened We worked at China City We spoke Sze Yup Sam had iron fan Louie was mean We did the husband wife thing what a super annoying term and Vern had melting bone diseaseWhat was the deal with Vern anyway? Was he retarded autistic Down's Syndrome just sickly what?? He had no purpose at all except for the stupid model boats at the endThe only exciting thing was when May FINALLY yelled at Pearl and told her to stop being such an in sufferable bitch Not soon enoughI can't believe that there is a seuel because I can't imagine that people want to spend time with these cardboard people This was the third book I've read by this author and I'm still confused as to my feelings for her writing The first book I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan I loved I think it was all the descriptions and information about the cultural nuances including foot binding Then I was excited to read Peony in Love until I actually started it Then I thought maybe this book would turn the tide either way Unfortunately I'm still ambivalent It was an interesting enough story two modern sisters escape the country into arranged marriages in the United States but it lacked the interesting older cultural nuances that I so enjoy Plus and please forgive me if you adore history reading about war bores me Thank you to everyone who has served or is serving our country We would not have the freedoms we have now were it not for people giving their life but reading a fictional account of any war is not something I normally enjoy I guess I will wait until this author writes something else and decide then if I'm interested enough to read it If you like to read about Chinese culture skip this one and Peony in Love and go straight to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan I fell in love with Lisa See's writing a few years ago when I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan As such I was really looking forward to reading Shanghai Girls when it came out Initially though people began saying that it did not compare So it was with trepidation that I began reading this book afraid that I would be disappointed THAT DID NOT HAPPEN All I can say is that Lisa See has another hit on her hands with this wonderful story of two sisters who emigrate from Shanghai to America around the time of the cultural revolution in China From the beginning of the book in Shanghai through their journey out of China to their stay on Angel Island and finally their life in Southern California I was captivated by Pearl and her sister May Two sisters could not be different but attached than the two women in this book As usual See has imbued this story with a wonderful cast of characters who surround the sisters and help tell the story of the bewilderment of the Chinese population after the 1937 invasion by Japan the assimilation of the Chinese into American society in the 1940s and 50s and finally the mistrust prejudice and panic in the US towards Chinese Americans after the rise to power in China of Mao Tse Tung See is such a gifted storyteller that you feel like you know the characters personally and the pages just fly by My only complaint was that the end of the story left so many loose ends In a way it was fitting but at the same time there were many uestions left unanswered I was therefore very excited to hear that Lisa See is planning to continue the story of Pearl May and Joy in another book 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 and that 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 back cover I really enjoyed this peek into Chinese culture and history For Ed's peace of mind there are a few instances of tragedy porn a la Kite Runner but I found this book rather enjoyable It covers Pearl and May's lives growing up in Shanghai where they don't have to worry about much until their father basically sells them as wives for another man's sons in order to pay off his gambling debts Amid this the second Sino Japanese War is going on and it takes everything they have in order to get out of Shanghai En route to America the girls are detained at the Angel Island immigration facility and then when WWII hits they have to face the racism and discrimination against all Asian races because Westerners mistake them for being Japanese Pearl raises a daughter and is torn between bringing her up in the traditional Chinese way or the modern American style Along the way she and May share a tight and sometimes strained bond as they share life altering experiences Being sisters married to a pair of brothers they all live in the same house and family on top of family isn't always the best situation Lisa See researched this excellently and I learned so much; from Chinese culture in general to the issues immigrants had to deal with it really parallels the problems Mexicans and Latinos are facing in America right now and then tying it in with several big historical events The end was left wide open for the seuel Dreams of Joy which I'm now dying for Historical fiction beginning in 1937 in Shanghai China Two sisters are uprooted from their carefree lives when their father loses the family’s wealth to gambling debts He arranges their marriages much to their dismay which starts a harrowing journey that ends in Chinatown near Hollywood California It follows the development of family bonds and the trajectory of their lives as they work hard attempt to save money for the future and experience multiple adversities The focus is on family relationships particularly between the two sisters Pearl and May Characters are deeply drawn and exhibit growth The author does a good job of showing how each generation separates itself from the parents’ views and provides a sense of how Chinese traditions influence the family The descriptions of Shanghai are vivid and historical events are infused throughout the narrative This book also illuminates the Chinese experience of racism and persecution in the United States after the Communist Revolution brought Mao Zedong to power in China I found the story compelling and appreciated finding out about the history of the era Be prepared for an ending that becomes slightly melodramatic and sets up a seuel Fans of family sagas in historical settings will likely enjoy it

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