Excerpt from The Lost Daughter of Happiness by Geling Yan, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Lost Daughter of Happiness

By Geling Yan

The Lost Daughter of Happiness
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2001,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: May 2002,
    288 pages.

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You've only been here a month, so you haven't really seen this town called Gold Mountain. You don't know how cruel people can be to men with queues and women with bound feet. As one steamship after another arrives, they can smell the war and famine at your backs. They mutter, Refugee heathens. And as they watch your boundless hordes trudging ashore, they realize something is enormously wrong. You are the most terrible creatures in the world. You're inscrutable. You'll put up with anything. You will humbly and meekly begin overrunning the place.

The same thing happens when we come pouring out the airport gates and people suddenly stare at us so anxiously. Suspicion on both sides elides a hundred years of history and the past shoots right back through us.

It's very hard for me to explain this feeling to you.

Chris has been riding horses since he was seven. Right now, his horse is following a path along the coast. Not far off a group of men is laughing uproariously. Chris hasn't noticed--people seldom take notice of all the craziness around here.There is a Chinese man in the group, true to type, short and slight, blinking his shifty little eyes, showing his front teeth in his uncertainty. He is shouldering a pole, carrying two baskets of crab he's just caught. This is how he makes his living. A group of white men has blocked his way. They string his queue--the braid all Chinese men wear--over a tree limb, suspending his entire body. He doesn't understand any of their accusations, which include eating anything on earth that walks or swims, wearing a queue, and shouldering a pole. He hangs there in silence, thinking, endure and it will pass. But his mute endurance--his bewildering silence and gentleness--makes them cut off his ears, nose, and tongue. Chris doesn't even notice the tattered body swaying in the wind. He has yet to realize that the infatuation one feels for what one cannot understand is just as violent as the animosity.

His infatuation with you has left him time for nothing else. In his dreams, he is much taller, brandishing a long sword. A knight of courage and passion. An Oriental princess imprisoned in a dark cell waits for him to rescue her. She has dyed her nails red with the juice of pressed blossoms. She has silk for skin. She sticks blood-soaked watermelon seeds one by one between her lips and makes steps of pained grace on the mutilated points of her feet. Trapped in degradation, the girl plays her tearful bamboo flute and waits for him. The boy is disconsolate; the image in his daydream--the golden female body, partly covered with long black tresses--is you.

Chris isn't thinking about all the hatred fermenting against the Chinese.

His mind is filled with your body laid out across the bamboo bed, waiting to be used to satisfaction. This is the image you have branded upon his whole life.

Don't move. Just lie there and let me take a closer look at the body you use to entertain the whole world.

Amah was taking Fusang to auction. She had already been sold by two other madams.

The whippings had stopped three days ago. Amah told her this was to give her time to heal.

Fusang, you won't even open your mouth to hawk yourself. Why the hell should I keep you? Amah said, her tenderness laced with disdain.

Wiping the chamber pot, Fusang looked up at her.

Just to look at you, Amah continued, no one could tell you're slow. She sighed, trying to figure out how such great beauty and low intellect could combine in one person.

Fusang lowered her head and devoted herself to polishing the pot.

Amah continued listing Fusang's failings as she opened the little cabinet in her room and took out some clothes and a few pieces of costume jewelry. She said, I'm selling you, so you won't be needing these anymore. Fusang, don't you make me cry. You girls I can't keep just make me cry my eyes out.

From The Lost Daughter of Happiness, copyright (c) 2001, Hyperion Press. Reproduced with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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