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Shanghai girls : a novel
2009
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Characters
Pearl (Female), Chinese-American, Married, Father sold her to a wealthy Chinese-American to be a bride for his son; left for Amercia after Japanese bombs destroyed the city and her parents disappeared; adjusts to life in America
May (Female), Chinese-American, Married, Father sold her to a wealthy Chinese-American to be a bride for his son; left for Amercia after Japanese bombs destroyed the city and her parents disappeared; adjusts to life in America
Genre
Fiction
Historical
Sociological
Topics
Tradition
Family relationships
Sisters
Chinese American women
Arranged marriage
Secrets
Marriage
Life changes
Cultural differences
Immigrants
Cultural identity
Setting
Shanghai, China - Asia
China - Asia
California - West (U.S.)
Time Period
1930s -- 20th century
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

In prewar 1930s Shanghai, carefree sisters Pearl Chin and younger, prettier May are the "beautiful girls" whose images on posters beckon viewers to buy products. They openly scoff at their parents' superstitious, old-world ways, but they soon learn that the good life is but an illusion. The Japanese army's brutal invasion of the city makes their lives as beautiful girls impossible. Their businessman father loses everything to the ruthless mob, and to pay off his debts he forces his daughters into arranged marriages to Chinese men living in the United States. See is masterly in her powerful depictions of the prejudice and harsh treatment the sisters encounter as they try to assimilate into the strange new world of Los Angeles. Possibly the best book yet from the author of Peony in Love; highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/09.]-Marika Zemke, Commerce Twshp. Community Lib., MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Summary
In 1937, Shanghai is the Paris of Asia, a city of great wealth and glamour, the home of millionaires and beggars, gangsters and gamblers, patriots and revolutionaries, artists and warlords. Thanks to the financial security and material comforts provided by their father's prosperous rickshaw business, twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Though both sisters wave off authority and tradition, they couldn't be more different: Pearl is a Dragon sign, strong and stubborn, while May is a true Sheep, adorable and placid. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree . . . until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from California to find Chinese brides.<br> <br> As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, one that will take them through the Chinese countryside, in and out of the clutch of brutal soldiers, and across the Pacific to the shores of America. In Los Angeles they begin a fresh chapter, trying to find love with the strangers they have married, brushing against the seduction of Hollywood, and striving to embrace American life even as they fight against discrimination, brave Communist witch hunts, and find themselves hemmed in by Chinatown's old ways and rules.<br> <br> At its heart, Shanghai Girls is a story of sisters: Pearl and May are inseparable best friends who share hopes, dreams, and a deep connection, but like sisters everywhere they also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. They love each other, but each knows exactly where to drive the knife to hurt the other the most. Along the way they face terrible sacrifices, make 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.
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