From one of Chinas most acclaimed novelists, the award-winning screenwriter of Joan Chens film Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl, comes an unflinching, erotic, and exciting tale of forbidden love in turn-of-the-century San Francisco.
This powerful novel tells the story of a love affair between an enigmatic Chinese prostitute and the Caucasian boy who worships her. It is set in the aftermath of the Gold Rush era, when San Francisco was known as Gold Mountain to the millions who came seeking fortune. The book describes, in sometimes brutal detail, the anti-Chinese violence that plagued the city during this time, and portrays a seedy underworld of Chinatown brothels, gambling halls, and opium dens. Although the story is fictional, Fusang, the prostitute, is a real historical character.
The Lost Daughter of Happiness follows the main characters from childhood to old age, and is filled with a vivid cast of peripheral characters, from missionaries to gangsters. The book includes moments of tremendous cruelty (ranging from mob riots to gang bloodbaths to slave auctions) and incredible human tenderness. Narrated in a haunting voice that explores the pasts painful truths through the prism of the present, and filled with electrifying scenes that make its colorful history come alive, this mesmerizing story traces the lives of two individuals separated by prejudice and mistrust, but bound forever by love.
The Lost Daughter of Happiness
This is who you are.
The one dressed in red, slowly rising from the creaking bamboo bed, is you. The embroidery on your satin padded jacket must weigh ten catties; the parts stitched most densely are as hard as ice, or armor. From a distance of one hundred and twenty years, I am amazed by the needlework, so thoroughly beyond me.
Let me raise your chin a bit here, and bring your lips into the dim light. That's it, just right. Now I can see your whole face clearly. Don't worry--others will just find exotic the face you consider too square. To the novelty seekers of your day, your every flaw was a distinction.
Now turn around, just like all those times on the auction block. You're used to the auction; that's where pretty whores like you come to know their worth. I found pictures of those auctions in some books about Chinatown-- dozens of female bodies, totally naked, their beauty in sharp relief against the surrounding gloom.
If you liked The Lost Daughter of Happiness, try these:
A deeply engaging new novel, set in both our time and the late nineteenth century. It centers on a California woman, half Indian, half Hawaiian, who became consort and confidante to the last king of Hawaii.
A sweeping portrait of the era of the Californian Gold Rush, a story rich in character, history, violence, and compassion.
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