Good Read: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
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.
Katie Villanueva says:
“I just finished this fabulous book called Shanghai Girls. This novel is about two Chinese sisters who live in Shanghai in the late 1930s, right before WWII. They are upper middle class and consider themselves “modern” and try to be “western.” They love Shanghai and have a very social night life. Their father gambles all their money away and sells them to an American Chinese man to marry his sons. The girls marry the men but refuse to move to America and miss their boat. Their father mysteriously disappears when the deal is broken & WWII breaks out and Japan invades China. The sisters and their mother must leave Shanghai and get to safety without being caught by the Japanese. The only place to go is to America to husbands who may yet refuse them once they arrive. Shanghai Girls is an amazing story chronicling the lives of these sisters who transform to women and then evolve into mothers. They are faced with rape, unwanted pregnancy, interrogations, racism, economic difficulty, oppression, and identity crisis. However they are also enveloped with each other’s love which protects one another and a ferocious inner strength that guides them through their journey. Granted this novel is historical fiction, the novelist drew on real life experiences from many Chinese and Chinese Americans living during that time period. The Shanghai Girls’ encounter many real life situations that have happened to one person or another during that time. It is flooring how the world operated & thought back then. It’s shameful. I can say though, all the discouraging things that happen to these two women are evened out by the life they eventually find but never really wanted because they will forever consider themselves Shanghai Girls.”
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