Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Audio Fiction

Finished July 6
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, read by Janet Song
This book follows two sisters from Shanghai, Pearl and May. When the book begins in 1937, Shanghai is the Paris of Asia, with a large international community and busy nightlife. Pearl and May work as "beautiful girls" modelling for advertisements of all kinds. This world begins to fall apart when their father reveals his financial problems have caused him to sell the two sisters as wives to "golden mountain men". The sisters fight against this at first, but when they realize the full story of their family situation, the city is already under attack by the Japanese. They must fight just to survive.
As the girls make their way out of Shanghai and to Los Angeles, they undergo a great deal, and these events seal their fate. In Los Angeles they struggle to begin new lives with men they don't know. But their strong bond as sisters carries them through.
From 1937 to the late 1950s, the sisters lives change enormously. See really makes the reader feel the reality of living as a visible minority in the U.S. at this time. It is a great story, and also a revealing one about the unsavory past of North American immigration.
Back in my undergrad days I took a course that looked at immigration to Canada from China and Japan from the beginnings until the early twentieth century and while their are differences, there are a lot of similarities as well. It is an interesting subject and this is a good book for a taste of it.

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