Intimately Fictional

Whoever came up with the old adage “Write what you know” must have forgotten about the historical novel. Yet there are also novels that, although they’re based in a time period outside the author’s lifetime, nevertheless benefit from his or her unique experience. One of these is Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, a Paris-born author whose Chinese-American family moved to Los Angeles, specifically Chinatown, when she was a young girl. The experience must have stayed with her, because the centerpiece of See’s new novel is a move that two sisters are forced to make from their native Shanghai to L.A. in 1937. Pearl and May Chin’s father, who has squandered his fortune and subsequently accepted marriage proposals from two American men, ships them off to the States.

See has already written eloquently (New York Times Best-Selling eloquently) about modern Chinese women in her “Red Princess” mystery series (Flower Net, The Interior, and Dragon Bones) and Chinese women from the 17th and 19th centuries (Snow Flowerand the Secret Fan and Peony in Love), but these two characters, especially the bookish elder sister, Pearl, are perhaps the ones closest to the author’s heart.
Mon., June 22, 8 p.m., 2009

 
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