Writing stories is not easy. It takes a certain devotion to weave words into stories that speak to the human heart. These are the kinds of stories that author Lisa See writes. Lisa See was born on February 18th, 1955 in Paris but spent most of her youth in Los Angeles. As a young woman Lisa See knew she wanted to travel so she decided to take two years off from college and do just that. During her travels she realized that she had to find a way to support herself so that she could continue traveling. Lisa had always been adamant about never becoming a writer but during her stay in Greece she realized it was exactly what she wanted to do. She describes the moment she realized she could write as a light bulb suddenly going off. That single moment is the reason why Lisa See began writing about the Chinese American experience.
Authors are always told to write what they know and Lisa See knows a lot about Chinese history and traditions. Lisa See spent most of her young life living in China Town surrounded by traditional Chinese culture. She began her career with the book On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family. This book tells the story of her family´s struggles. These struggles were not only caused by racism and the Chinese Exclusion Act but also by members within her family. When she speaks about her family she speaks with an air of unbiased honesty and tenderness but also with humor. Her great great grandfather for example moved from China to the U.S. to work on the transcontinental railroad, unfortunately he decided to forget about the family he had left back in China. He never sent money home leaving his wife and children penniless. Eventually some people gave his fourteen year old son enough money to travel to the U.S. who unlike his father was a hard worker. Lisa See´s great grandfather was able to build his first business making crotch less underwear. Meantime Lisa´s great grandmother, a young Caucasian woman, was looking for a job in San Francisco. At that time work for women was limited and no one would hire her except Lisa See´s grandfather. Their bi-racial marriage was not yet legal in the U.S. so they had a lawyer create a contract between the two instead of having an actual marriage certificate. Lisa See´s first book focuses on how her great grandfather becomes a powerful man and the effect that his actions had on the women in his life. Her knowledge about her family and heritage inspires her to write passionate books that tend to heavily reflect women´s perspectives.
After her first book Lisa See decided to go a completely different direction and began to write a series of mysteries. The first book in her Red Princess mysteries is titled Flower Net and follows the story of Liu Hulan and David Stark. The two are assigned by the Chinese and American governments to work together to solve a number of mysterious murders. Liu Hulan is a complex character who can be both sweet and vulnerable as well as frustrating and difficult adding excitement and unpredictability to the plot. The murders seem to be connected to a dangerous gang that operates in both China and Los Angeles and as the plot thickens so does the connection between Hulan and Stark. The second book in the series is titled The Interior and begins in 1997 with a new alliance formed between the capitalist United States and communist China. The book centers around greed and how this new alliance was both beneficial and detrimental for the Chinese people. The murder mysteries in this second book seem to be connected with a toy factory that fails to adhere to safety guidelines making it a dangerous place for the women who work there. This piece is beloved because of its complex plot, complicated characters and setting descriptions.
Lisa See´s protagonists are usually strong women who have to face hardships because of their sex, cultural traditions, and socio economic status. one of Lisa See´s most cherished novels is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. this book is a story about friendship between Lily and Snow Flower and was so popular that it was made into a movie released in 2011 by Fox Searchlight. The two girls are inseparable and their love and loyalty for each other follows them throughout their whole lives. The story is set in late 19th century China and revolves around how these two young girls grow apart and back together. It touches on powerful themes such as love, friendship and loss. It is also written in a time of great social rebellion in China that led to millions of deaths. This backdrop serves as a way to explain Chinese history and the effect it had on the Chinese people. Small aspects of this book such as the foot binding and secret fan itself adds dimension and emotion to the piece. One of Lisa see´s greatest desires is for people to learn and understand history and tradition through stories rather than simply through numbers and names. Her books accomplish this goal routinely by teaching readers about difficult historical events as well as both beautiful and painful traditions in a refreshing and astounding way.
Lisa See´s stories are famous for being intensely beautiful and sometimes incredibly sad. She likes to believe that her stories ¨cut to the bone¨ and truly reflect the human condition. It is because of this mindset and her ruthless research that her books come alive. Lisa See´s most renown accomplishments are her books but these are far from being her only forms of success. She has also been a curator and freelance writer. Her writing has appeared in important magazines like Vogue and Self. Apart from these impressive accomplishments she also wrote a libretto based on her first book and was the Publishers Weekly West Coast Correspondent for over a decade. She has, unsurprisingly, won various awards for her work. Today Lisa See´s permanent residence is still in Los Angeles with her husband and children although she still spends much of her time traveling the globe.
Books in order of publication:
Red Princess Books
|The Flower Net||(1997)|
May and Pearl Books
|Dreams of Joy||(2011)|
|Snow Flower and the Secret Fan||(2005)|
|Peony in Love||(2007)|
|The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane||(2017)|
|The Island of Sea Women||(2019)|
Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books
|On Gold Mountain||(1995)|