Rich relationships feed author’s works
By J. Rentilly
WHEN IT COMES to what family is and what it Smithsonian, and then as an opera, staged at L.A.’s
means, there are no easy answers. But with depth, Japan America Theatre.
soulfulness, grace and stunning, lush prose, Lisa See See believes the experience of working in these
reaches across generations, geographical borders different mediums—the museum (“purely visual,”
and cultural differences, mining her own Chinese- she says) and opera (“purely emotional”)—prepared
American heritage to shed light on the her to write Snow Flower, a sweeping
subject of family. See is, perhaps, litera- but heartbreakingly intimate 19th-
ture’s finest contemporary purveyor of century epic of friendship, regret,
family, in all its myriad incarnations. oppression, survival and secret lan-
“I don’t think I’d be the writer I am, guages set in China. The novel has
or maybe even a writer at all, were it not sold more than 300,000 copies and
for the family that I have, and the fam- has been translated into more than 30
ily history that I have,” says See, author languages. See recently returned from
of this month’s Book Pick, Snow Flower an international book tour, where she
and the Secret Fan, which has nested discovered that Italian and Polish
near the top of the nation’s bestseller readers alike are bonding with the
lists for most of the past 18 months. novel’s intricate tapestry of Chinese
See spent much of her youth in Los history and tradition, star-crossed
Angeles’ Chinatown, which her great- friendships and quest for family.
grandfather, self-made Chinese immi- Lisa See “To my surprise, Snow Flower
grant Fong See, helped to establish nearly a century seems to move people of every culture equally,” says
ago, earning him the handle “Godfather of See with genuine humility. “I can only guess it’s
Chinatown.” because we all have a mother. We all have a father.
“Those family relationships are really what We all have these families who have struggled and
make us human: exploring them, transcending succeeded and failed and hurt and been joyful. We
them, revealing them, giving in to them,” she tells all share that. Only the particulars are different—the
The Connection. “Sometimes we deny them, avoid kind of teapot we might use, for example.”
them, despise them or abandon them. This is part of She adds, “But so much of the human experi-being human, working out these relationships— ence is remarkably universal, especially where it
only I write it down.” comes to friendship and family, and I feel very for-
For See, who is one-eighth Chinese and the tunate to have reached such a large audience with
daughter of acclaimed author and critic Carolyn my story.” C
See, the multigenerational, multinational family history was brought vividly to life by aunts and uncles
aching to tell their own stories of crossing oceans,
establishing new homes and businesses, forging love
affairs and building their own families. The See family, in many ways, “defied all expectations, broke
through all these barriers,” the author says.
A brief trip to China in 1989, her first and “kind
of a long time coming,” put See on a journey that
has deeply affected her life and career.
A month later, she began writing
On Gold Mountain: The One- Signed book
Hundred-Year Odyssey of My
Chinese-American Family, initiated, she says, as a “short letter, a giveaway
couple of pages, for my family; an COSTCO HAS 10 autographed
update of sorts.” copies of Lisa See’s Snow
It grew into “maybe a magazine Flower and the Secret Fan to
article” before becoming a bestselling, give away.
critically heralded memoir, passion- To enter, print your
ately told, featuring interviews with name, membership number,
dozens of the See family’s friends, rela- address and daytime phone num-tives, collaborators and even enemies. See has ber on a postcard or letter and
adapted the book twice to different mediums: first as send it to: Snow Flower, The
a museum exhibit, launched at the Autry National Costco Connection, P.O. Box
Center in Los Angeles, with a sold-out stop at the
Pennie Clark Ianniciello
Costco Book Buyer
J. Rentilly is a Los Angeles–based journalist who
covers film, music and literature.
News about scheduled book signings
at Costco and a book giveaway can
be found in “Book Look,” only in the Online Edition
at costco.com under “Costco magazine.”
EVERY NOW and then
I come across someone
who is so talented in
so many ways that I
can’t help but feel a
Author Lisa See is
that kind of person. Not
only has she designed a
walking tour of Los
created a museum
exhibit and written the
words to an opera, she
is also skilled in writing
across genres. This
month’s Book Pick, the
novel Snow Flower and
the Secret Fan, is a
touching story of friendship—and just about as
close to perfection as a
reader can get.
Snow Flower and
the Secret Fan is available at most Costco
warehouses and at
34088, Seattle, WA 98124-1088,
or fax it to (425) 313-6718.
No purchase is necessary.
Entries must be received or postmarked by midnight, January 2,
2007. Void where prohibited.
Employees of Costco and their
families are not eligible. Winners
will be notified by mail. One
entry per household.
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