Mailbox Monday #327

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1. The Gods of Tango by Carolina de Robertis for review.

February 1913: seventeen-year-old Leda, carrying only a small trunk and her father’s cherished violin, leaves her Italian village for a new home, and a new husband, in Argentina. Arriving in Buenos Aires, she discovers that he has been killed, but she remains: living in a tenement, without friends or family, on the brink of destitution. Still, she is seduced by the music that underscores life in the city: tango, born from lower-class immigrant voices, now the illicit, scandalous dance of brothels and cabarets. Leda eventually acts on a long-held desire to master the violin, knowing that she can never play in public as a woman. She cuts off her hair, binds her breasts, and becomes “Dante,” a young man who joins a troupe of tango musicians bent on conquering the salons of high society. Now, gradually, the lines between Leda and Dante begin to blur, and feelings that she has long kept suppressed reveal themselves, jeopardizing not only her musical career, but her life.

2.  Summer Secrets by Jane Green, a surprise from Tandem Literary.

June, 1998: At twenty seven, Catherine Coombs, also known as Cat, is struggling. She lives in London, works as a journalist, and parties hard. Her lunchtimes consist of several glasses of wine at the bar downstairs in the office, her evenings much the same, swigging the free booze and eating the free food at a different launch or party every night. When she discovers the identity of the father she never knew she had, it sends her into a spiral. She makes mistakes that cost her the budding friendship of the only women who have ever welcomed her. And nothing is ever the same after that.

June, 2014: Cat has finally come to the end of herself. She no longer drinks. She wants to make amends to those she has hurt. Her quest takes her to Nantucket, to the gorgeous summer community where the women she once called family still live. Despite her sins, will they welcome her again? What Cat doesn’t realize is that these women, her real father’s daughters, have secrets of their own. As the past collides with the present, Cat must confront the darkest things in her own life and uncover the depths of someone’s need for revenge.

3.  Uglies by Scott Westerfeld from the library sale.

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. Not for her license – for turning pretty. In Tally’s world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all.

4.  Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn from the library sale, which is great since its the August Book Club pick.

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

5.  Dragon Bones by Lisa See from the library sale, which is one I don’t have by this author.

In a magnificent land where myth mixes treacherously with truth, one woman is in charge of telling them apart. Liu Hulan is the Inspector in China’s Ministry of Public Security whose tough style rousts wrongdoers and rubs her superiors the wrong way. Now her latest case finds her trapped between her country’s distant past and her own recent history.

The case starts at a rally for a controversial cult that ends suddenly in bloodshed, and leads to the apparent murder of an American archaeologist, which officials want to keep quiet. And haunting Hulan’s investigation is the possible theft of ancient dragon bones that might alter the history of civilization itself.

Getting to the bottom of ever-spiraling events, Hulan unearths more scandals, confronts more murderers, and revives tragic memories that shake her tormented marriage to its core. In the end, she solves a mystery as big, unruly, and complex as China itself.

6.  The Yellow House by Martin Gayford from the library sale, which is about painters I love.

This chronicle of the two months in 1888 when Paul Gauguin shared a house in France with Vincent Van Gogh describes not only how these two hallowed artists painted and exchanged ideas, but also the texture of their everyday lives. Includes 60 B&W reproductions of the artists’ paintings and drawings from the period.

My daughter got a ton of awesome DVDs at the library sale, including a set of Strawberry Shortcake videos, which she’s been running around the house smelling because they smell just like strawberry shortcake!

She also got a box set of Dora the Explorer books, and some other fun reads.

Sipping Spiders Through a Straw: Campfire Songs for Monsters by Kelly Dipucchio and illustrated by Gris Grimly

A delightfully chilling musical romp through the gross and gory world of campfire songs!

In this howlishly fun collection of campfire songs, little monsters everywhere will love singing along to their favorite campfire tunes which have been altered for optimal gross-out effect by the ghoulish Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by the Master of Creep, Gris Grimly.

Disgusting highlights include “If You’re Scary and You Know It,” “99 Bottles of Blood on the Wall,” and the classic in the making, “Do Your Guts Hang Low?” Gather your creepy, crawly friends and get ready to slither and slink and howl and stink!

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin

Farmer Brown has a problem.

His cows like to type.

All day long he hears

Click, clack, MOO.

Click, clack, MOO.

Clickety, clack, MOO.

But Farmer Brown’s problems REALLY begin when his cows start leaving him notes….

Doreen Cronin’s understated text and Betsy Lewin’s expressive illustrations make the most of this hilarious situation. Come join the fun as a bunch of literate cows turn Farmer Brown’s farm upside down.

Peter Pan Fairy Tale Favorites A Pop-Up Book by John Patience

What did you receive?

China Dolls by Lisa See

Source: Random House
Hardcover, 400 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

China Dolls by Lisa See spans pre-WWII, WWII, and after the war when Chinese immigrants and American-born Chinese were constantly stereotyped and pushed to the sidelines, and when America goes to war against Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor, proving you’re American becomes even more important.  Grace Lee has left Ohio in a hurry and ends up in San Francisco with crushed dreams and no friends, until she meets Helen Fong, who is from a traditional Chinese family in Chinatown.  She’s uptight and traditional, harsh on Grace and later on Ruby Tom, but she’s also searching for her own path, wishing that her own dreams could be realized.  Hollywood is often considered the land where dreams come true, but in this case, these Asian women find their dreams in San Francisco, though those dreams are often marginalized by their own pettiness and the world that looks down on their culture and abilities.

“Helen and I sat on the floor a little apart from the other ponies, who massaged one another’s feet, stretched, and gossiped.  Every day Helen arrived at rehearsal in a dark wool skirt, long-sleeved black sweater, and charcoal-gray wool stockings, but she quickly changed out of them.  To my eyes, it seemed like she was shedding not just layers of clothing but layers of tradition.” (page 47 ARC)

Grace is a broken young woman of seventeen and very naive, and in many ways Helen and Ruby are all too happy to teach her lessons about the real world, but they often underestimate her resiliency, her willingness to forgive, and her determination to succeed.  Whether she is running from her past in Ohio, her failed attempt at stardom at the Golden Gate International Exposition, or the rumors that circulate around her during WWII, Grace must turn inward to find her strength and remain true to her dream.  She may take advantage of every opportunity around her when it presents itself, even if it comes as something tragic befalls her friends, but she never purposefully creates those opportunities.  Ruby and Helen, on the other hand, are downright Machiavellian, though in Helen’s case, her machinations come from an emotional devastation that she struggles to keep hidden daily.

“I don’t want to remind them”—and it didn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out I was talking about the FBI and the WRA—”I exist.  I don’t want to risk being sent to Leupp to join my parents.  I want to forget all that.  You left your mother behind.  Now I’ve left mine.” (page 262 ARC)

China Dolls by Lisa See is about chasing your dreams, making them come true, and all the petty jealousies and ups and downs that come with that, particularly in show business.  See masterfully weaves the history of the time period into these ladies’ lives.  It would be an excellent selection for book clubs as it raises questions about racial discrimination, inter-race relations, and prejudices within cultures based on socioeconomic and cultural differences, as well as what it means to be patriotic.

About the Author:

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. Ms. See’s new novel, Shanghai Girls, once again delves into forgotten history.  Visit her Website, Facebook, and Twitter.

17th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

Mailbox Monday #264

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has gone through a few incarnations from a permanent home with Marcia to a tour of other blogs.

Now, it has its own permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1. The Bambino and Me by Zachary Hyman, illustrator Zachary Pullen, and narrator Jason Alexander for review from Tundra Books.

A picture book that perfectly conjures 1920s New York for fans of baseball and Babe Ruth. This book also includes a CD narrated by Jason Alexander!

George Henry Alexander is a huge fan of baseball. His favorite team is the New York Yankees and his favorite player is Babe Ruth. George plays baseball during his free time and he listens to the games on the radio with his dad. Everywhere he goes, he carries his Babe Ruth baseball card.

On his birthday, George’s parents surprise him with two tickets to watch the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees–his first real game! But his presents don’t stop there. Uncle Alvin has sent him a baseball jersey and cap, but it’s for the Boston Red Sox! Filled with horror, George tosses them aside, but his mother will not have any of that. He will wear them to the baseball game with his dad!

2.  Any Anxious Body by Chrissy Kolaya from the poet for review.

It may seem counter-intuitive – even morbid – to take comfort in the inevitability of our mortality; but that is merely one of many truths confronted with both honesty and eloquence in this compelling first collection of poetry by Chrissy Kolaya. Another is the dark underbelly of the American dream of upward mobility the disconnect that occurs across the generations as the gulf of education and economic opportunity increasingly separates the experiences, values and interests of the young from their forebears, making each of us a stranger in the strange land of our families and “A World Familiar/Unfamiliar” (the title of one section.

3.  China Dolls by Lisa See from the publisher for review.

In 1938, Ruby, Helen and Grace, three girls from very different backgrounds, find themselves competing at the same audition for showgirl roles at San Francisco’s exclusive “Oriental” nightclub, the Forbidden City. Grace, an American-born Chinese girl has fled the Midwest and an abusive father. Helen is from a Chinese family who have deep roots in San Francisco’s Chinatown. And, as both her friends know, Ruby is Japanese passing as Chinese. At times their differences are pronounced, but the girls grow to depend on one another in order to fulfill their individual dreams. Then, everything changes in a heartbeat with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Suddenly the government is sending innocent Japanese to internment camps under suspicion, and Ruby is one of them. But which of her friends betrayed her?

4. My Accidental Jihad by Krista Bremer, which came unexpectedly from Algonquin.

Fifteen years ago, Krista Bremer would not have been able to imagine her life today: married to a Libyan-born Muslim, raising two children with Arabic names in the American South. Nor could she have imagined the prejudice she would encounter or the profound ways her marriage would change her perception of the world.But on a running trail in North Carolina, she met Ismail. He was passionate and sincere and he loved adventure as much as she did. From acquaintances to lovers to a couple facing an unexpected pregnancy, this is the story of two people a middle-class American raised in California and a Muslim raised by illiterate parents in an impoverished Libyan fishing village who made a commitment to each other without forsaking their own identities.

What did you receive?

Some Winners

I’ve got a bunch of winners to announce and congratulate from a recent set of giveaways.  For those of you who are looking for other book giveaways, please check out the right sidebar as always for giveaways on the blog and elsewhere on the Internet.

The winner of The Bedtime Book for Dogs by Bruce Littlefield and Illustrated by Paul S. Heath is #1 Rhapsody in Books, who said, ”

I love this line: ‘Normally, I’m not a children’s book reviewer..’ Serena, you are SO going to be one in no time at all! :–)

One of my favorite books to read to children is actually of book of children’s poetry, although I think it is out of print now. It is ‘Catch Me & Kiss Me & Say It Again’ (rhymes by Clyde Watson and pictures by Wendy Watson). It’s got a bunch of ‘interactive’ rhymes that you can act out with children, such as tickling them at the right moments, etc.”

Congrats to Jill.

The winner of The Decadent Lovely by Amy Pence is #13 Brittany Gale, who said, “Really enjoyed reading the second part of the interview. I love poetry and this seems to be the only site with poetry giveaways!”

Congrats to Brittany, and I hope the Canada Post stops striking soon.

The winner of the ARC of Dreams of Joy by Lisa See is #13 Reading Adventures, who said, “I can’t wait to read this book! As to my favourite Lisa See book, I think it is Peony in Love, although all of her historical fiction titles have been good. I wasn’t as keen on the mystery book I read by her.”

Congrats to Marg.

Finally, I had a giveaway for War & Watermelon by Rich Wallace, which is a great kids book for ages 10-12 that focuses on the home front aspects of the Vietnam War and growing up as a young boy.  The winner is #3 Wordy Evidence of the Fact, who said, “Finding solid books for young male readers can be a particular challenge…our award panels of late have definitely favored the female voice. Nancie Atwell’s school compiles gender-specific lists each year (created by the students) that are posted on their website http://www.c-t-l.org. It stays fresh and has some good classics too. Please consider me interested in this one. Thanks!”

Congrats Sara, and I hope you enjoy the book.

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See

More than a follow-up to Shanghai Girls (my review), Dreams of Joy by Lisa See is about sisterly love, loyalty, and adolescence.  Readers will see in Joy, Pearl’s daughter, the headstrong young woman that many parents see in their daughters — they know everything and cannot be told anything they don’t already know and understand.  However, what do young adults do when the times get rough in many cases?  They run.  Joy is no exception, but in her case, she not only runs from home when family secrets are revealed, but she runs to a nation she has never lived in and that is under the iron fist of communism and at the whims of Chairman Mao.  Pearl heads to China after her daughter, in a country that tortured her and abandoned her when her family needed help most.

“Yes, I’ve escaped the blaming eyes of my mother and the reproachful eyes of my aunt, but I can’t escape myself.  The only things I can do to save myself are pull the weeds in the fields, let my emotions for Tao envelop me, and obey what Z.G. tells me to do with a paintbrush, pencil, charcoal, or pastel.”  (page 87)

Set in late 1950s to early 1960s China, Joy brings us on a journey through China in her quest to rediscover herself and find her biological father, while her mother searches for her and evades deportation, imprisonment, and other punishments for her capitalist ties and bourgeois thoughts and actions.  See has taken these characters from China to America, shown us how Pearl and her sister May adapted and became American in Shanghai Girls, and in Dreams of Joy she has expanded their world and struggles, demonstrating how returning to the homeland is fraught with danger and has essentially left Pearl and Joy country-less.  To enter China, they must renounce their U.S. ties, which were hard to win and maintain when Pearl and May arrived as immigrants.

“Four months later, I’m on the deck watching Shanghai come into view.  A week ago, I stepped off a plane in Hong Kong and was enveloped by odors I hadn’t smelled in that particular combination in years.  Now, as I wait to disembark, I breathe in the scents of home — the oil- and sewage-infused water, rice being cooked on a passing sampan, rotting fish moldering on the dock, vegetables grown upriver wilting in the heat and humidity.”  (page 56)

While much of the story is focused on Joy and her first experiences with her biological father Z.G. and homeland China, Pearl’s arrival complicates the story as she and Z.G. are presented as Joy’s parents but are not married and do not share a bed. For Pearl, her journey is not only to reclaim her daughter, but also one of reconciliation with the past, which ultimately leads to the redemption she has longed for.  She returns to Shanghai to find the city in shambles and less vibrant than when she left it, but her home remains and she begins anew as she patiently waits for her daughter’s return to Shanghai from the countryside and to her open arms.

“The village, the fields, and the canteen begin to look like movie sets — just facades.  The people around me seem fake too, putting on their smiling face and shouting slogans about things they don’t believe.  Everyone still pretends to be open, welcoming, and enthusiastic about the Great Leap Forward, but there’s a furtiveness to them that reminds me of rats slinking along the edges of walls.”  (page 260)

What’s fantastic about this novel is not only the deep examination of what love is in its many forms, but what strong bonds a mother and daughter have regardless if the mother is biological or not.  There is a lot to discuss in this novel for book clubs and the like, particularly as See shows the deeply hypocritical slogans and actions of the Maoist regime and its campaigns to “out produce” imperialist nations like Britain and the United States in the Great Leap Forward, while at the same time maintaining its ties with capitalist nations through Hong Kong (which during this time was owned by Britain) and several fairs in Canton.

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See is one of the best books of 2011, and readers will be dragged kicking and screaming into a dark past filled with hypocrisy, corruption, and famine that makes the journey even harder for Pearl, Joy, and their family.  There are moments of joy, resolution, and sadness that will touch readers deeply.  A cultural melting pot of characters that delves deep below the surface of political beliefs and preconceptions to the core of what happiness and reunification with family really means.  Although many Chinese see their homeland and culture as tied to Mao’s liberation, it is clear that deep down their ties to family are at the core of their decisions and actions.  The circle closes around Pearl, May, Z.G., and Joy to make the dreams of bliss a reality for them all.

About the Author:

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, California.

Please check out her Website and my interviewed Lisa See, here.  Please also check out the discussion guide for Dreams of Joy.

The Giveaway for my ARC of Dreams of Joy (international):

1.  Leave a comment about which Lisa See novel is your favorite or why you want to read Dreams of Joy.

2.  Tweet, Facebook, or blog about the giveaway and leave a link in the comments for a second entry.

Deadline is June 22, 2011, at 11:59PM EST


This is my 14th book for the 2011 Wish I’d Read That Challenge.   I’ve wanted to read this since I finished Shanghai Girls last year.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See examines the relationship between sisters, May and Pearl, their immigration story from Shanghai, China, to Los Angeles, Calif., and the political changes between the 1930s and 1950s.  Pearl was born under the sign of the Dragon, and May was born under the sign of the Sheep.  Do these signs define who they are?  Will they guide their fate?

“Mama insists May and I couldn’t change who we are even if we tried.  May is supposed to be as complacent and content as the Sheep in whose year she was born.  The Sheep is the most feminine of the signs, Mama says.  It’s fashionable, artistic, and compassionate.  The Sheep needs someone to take care of her. . . I have a Dragon’s striving desire, which can never be properly filled.  ‘There’s nowhere you can’t go with your big flapping feet,’ Mama frequently tells me.  However, a Dragon, the most powerful of the signs also has its drawbacks.  ‘A Dragon is loyal, demanding, responsible, a tamer of fates,’ Mama told me. . . ”  (Page 9 of the hardcover)

Considering themselves modern Chinese ladies in Shanghai and shunning the old ways of their ancestors, Pearl and May become painted, beauties on calendars that sell products ranging from tobacco to other household goods.  Pearl has a crush on the painter who makes the calendars, and despite being the older sister, often loses sight of her sister’s actions and whereabouts.  Soon, their world is blown apart when the secrets of their father’s gambling are revealed and they are sold into arranged marriages with Chinese-Americans.  Still, these young sisters dream of escape and willfully defy their parents’ wishes, only for the fates to step in and force them to honor their original plans to meet their husbands in America.

The ravages of war hit home in Shanghai as the Japanese invade China, and the Communists flee to the hills of China.  Lisa See deftly interweaves the political backdrop of China and the world at large behind the more present plight of the Chin sisters.  Through a series of twists and turns that mirror the rise and fall of political powers across the globe, Pearl and May face adversity together, but both emerge vastly changed.  Reminiscent of Amy Tan‘s writing about mothers and daughters, particularly the clashes of old and new cultures, See grabs hold of the sisterly relationship to shed light the joys, sorrows, painful moments, and sacrifices that only sisters can share and feel deep down to their core.  Larger issues of discrimination and political dissension also are prevalent themes.

Overall, Shanghai Girls is a deep novel that will lend itself to animated discussion among book clubs.  Readers will enjoy unraveling the family secrets of the Chin women and their new families, and be exposed to the intricate and complex political and social dynamics of some of the most turbulent times in world history.  Not only have these women grown through adversity and sacrifice, but they are sent on a journey to discover what it means to be family.

How I’ve missed reading Lisa See before, I have no idea.  But she’s an author I hope to read more of in the future.

To Enter to win 2 copies of Shanghai Girls by Lisa See (U.S./Canada only):

1.  Leave a comment on this review about what intrigues you about this novel.
2.  Leave a comment on my interview with Lisa See.
3.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, etc. the giveaway.

Deadline is Jan. 26, 2010, at 11:59PM EST

About the Author:

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, California.  Please check out her Website.  Read an excerpt of Shanghai Girls, here, and for book clubs, there are discussion questions.

I also interviewed Lisa See, here.

This is my 4th book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

If you are interested in the rest of the tour stops for Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, I encourage you to check out the TLC Book Tour site.

FTC Disclosure:  I received my free copy of Shanghai Girls by Lisa See from Random House and TLC Book Tours for review.  Clicking on title and image links will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though I appreciated.

Interview With Lisa See, Author of Shanghai Girls

My review of Shanghai Girls is slated for Jan. 19, 2010, and I had arranged a D.C. Literature Examiner interview with author Lisa See.

However, due to crazy changes going on at my part-time gig, I will be unable to post the interview with Lisa over there.  I thought it was only fitting to share what she had to say with my blog readers.  I think this is a good deal, don’t you?

Please welcome Lisa See.

Forgotten history plays a large role in your novels.  How do you come upon these forgotten stories?  And what about them inspires you to write novels based on those stories?

I think my interest in forgotten history and stories goes back to my own family. I come from a large Chinese American family. We had lots and lots of secrets, and most of them were tied to the larger history of the Chinese in America that no one wanted to talk about or write about.  What has struck me is that so much women’s history and stories have been lost, forgotten, or deliberately covered up.  We’re taught that in the past there were no women writers, no women artists, no women chefs . . . . I could go on and on.  But of course women did these things! 

It’s been a great honor and privilege for me to look for those stories, find them, and then use them in my novels.  How do I find them?  All kinds of ways.  I discovered nu shu – the women’s secret writing – when I was reviewing a book on footbinding for the Los Angeles Times.  Sometimes I find things when I’m doing research for something else. 

That happened with Peony in Love.  I was doing research on death rituals in 17th century China and came upon ghost brides and ghost marriages.  I thought:  Oh, I’ve got to use this.  It’s been happening a lot now as I’m writing the sequel to Shanghai Girls.  I can be looking up something about the weather or shipping schedules when all of a sudden I come across some truly surprising detail.  I know a lot of writers hire researchers.  I could never do that.  They wouldn’t know what to look for.  And I want to experience wow! cool! moments myself.

Shanghai Girls is about two sisters who go to America for arranged marriages.  Do you find sisterly relationships more complex than other relationships and why?

Oh my gosh, yes! The sibling relationship is typically the longest relationship we’ll have in our lives. Typically, your parents will die before you do, you won’t meet your mate until you’re an adult, and your children won’t come along until after that.

A sister, on the other hand, has known you from birth and will know you until one of you dies—hopefully not for a very, very long time. A sister should stand by you, support, you, and love you no matter what. Yet she is also the person who knows exactly where to drive the knife to hurt you the most. (And you know where to drive the knife to hurt her the most too.)

I have a lot of personal experience with sisters. I’m one of four sisters: I have a former step-sister that I’ve known since we were three and four, a half sister who’s my mom’s daughter, and a half-sister who’s my father’s daughter. But it wasn’t enough to rely on my own experience when I was writing Shanghai Girls. For two years, I asked everyone I knew and everyone I met about their relationships with their sisters. I had women tell me they hadn’t spoken to their sisters in two, five, ten, forty years!

I asked the one who hadn’t spoken to her sister in forty years if she even felt like she had a sister anymore. She answered, “Yes, because sisters are for life.” I think this is true—for good or bad. And it’s this sense that sisters are for life that distinguishes the relationship and makes it different from all others. We may have friends “who are just like sisters,” but they aren’t necessarily for life.

Please share a few of your obsessions.(i.e. a love of chocolate, animals, crosswords)?

Your examples made me laugh. I love chocolate, but I can’t eat it because I have migraines. I love animals, but I can’t have them either. When I was young, I had twenty cats, ducks, chickens, a goat, and a coyote mix, but I haven’t had any animals in years because my son Alexander has terrible allergies. (We tried fish and iguanas, but they aren’t great for cuddling or petting.)

I’m mad for crossword puzzles, and this is something I get to do! I start every Sunday morning by doing the crossword puzzle. Then my mom and I talk on the phone to help each other with our one or two missing letters. Of course, I have other obsessions, thankfully. I love going to movies. I love Dexter. (Last season was the best television I think I’ve ever seen.) I love gardens. I love to walk. And I might as well admit it, since I’ve been thinking about it since I first read your question. My husband and I are going to celebrate our thirtieth anniversary this year, and I am still utterly and happily obsessed with him.

(All I have to add is congrats on 30 years to Lisa and her husband!)

When writing poetry, prose, essays, and other works do you listen to music, do you have a particular playlist for each genre you work in or does the playlist stay the same? What are the top 5 songs on that playlist? If you don’t listen to music while writing, do you have any other routines or habits?

I really like the way you asked this question, because usually people only ask what I listen to when I’m writing my novels.  You’re so right to know – or guess – that people would listen to different types of music for different types of writing.

Right now as I’m writing this, I’m listening to Bob Dylan. I’m a huge Dylan fan, but I could never ever listen to him when I’m writing a novel. So when I’m doing this kind of writing – e-mail, interviews, essays – I listen to Dylan, Mary J. Blige, music from the Theme Time Radio Hour.

For writing novels, my playlist is very small: I listen to Puccini without Words, Mali to Memphis, Township Jazz ‘n’ Jive, Mozart Sonatas played by Mitsuko Uchida, and a collection of Yo-yo Ma’s cello concertos.

Which books have you been reading lately, and are there any you would recommend in particular?  Which books do you think should be read by more readers?

When I’m writing, I’m very careful about what I read. I read very few novels because I don’t want someone else’s voice to creep into my head. The only fiction I’ll read when I’m writing will be things like short stories, poetry, plays, operas, or the rare novel written in the time period that I’m writing about.  That puts me in the Yangtze delta in 17th century China or in Shanghai in 1937. It helps me with the images and ways that people spoke in those times and places.

Otherwise, I read a lot of obscure non-fiction about the subject that I’m writing about. By obscure, I mean published and unpublished dissertations that even the writers’ mothers didn’t read. Right now I have some books out from the UCLA library.  I’m the first person to check out some of those books in ten or twenty years!

When I’m done writing a novel, I take about three months to treat myself with all the books I’ve missed or longed to read. I loved Astrid and Veronika¸ and I’ve recommended it to a lot of book clubs. But there are other books that I absolutely love: Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, The Age of Dreaming by Nina Revoyr, and The Handyman, by my mom, Carolyn See.

I want to thank Lisa See for graciously agreeing to an interview. 

Don’t forget to check back on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010, for my review of Shanghai Girls and a giveaway.

Please visit today’s tour host, The Book Faery Reviews, and click on TLC Book Tour logo for other tour information.

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