Lisa See was born in Paris in 1955 but grew up in Los Angeles, spending much of her time in Chinatown. She is the daughter of author Carolyn See (described as a "leading literary figure of Southern California" who died in July 2016 aged 82.) Lisa's first book, On Gold Mountain: The One Hundred Year
Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family, was a national bestseller and a New
York Times Notable Book of 1995. The book traces the journey of Lisa's
great-grandfather, Fong See, who overcame obstacles at every step to become the
100-year-old godfather of Los Angeles's Chinatown and the patriarch of a
It was while collecting the details of her family history for On Gold Mountain that she developed the idea for her first novel, Flower Net, which was published in 1997. Paramount Pictures bought the films right to this riveting story of a murder investigation in today's China, and foreign rights were sold to fourteen countries. Flower Net was a national bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book of 1997, on the Los Angeles Times Best Books List for 1997, and was rated the top thriller of the year by Amazon.com. Flower Net was also nominated for an Edgar award for best first novel.
In The Interior (published in 2000), Liu Hulan and David Stark, characters first introduced in Flower Net, ferret out a killer (or killers) responsible for a series of murders in China and in the United States, as well as unravel a multi-million dollar international financial scheme with links to the Chinese countryside. At its heart, The Interior is a story about the sometimes blind love between a mother and daughter, the clash of global financial empires, and how the past can sometimes come back to haunt us.
Dragon Bones (Random House, 2003), the third in the Liu Hulan and David Stark series, is set against the building of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangzi River. The novel combines ancient myth and contemporary fears of religious fanaticism and terrorism to tell a story of love, betrayal, history, ecology, and gory murders. Author Ha Jin has said of the book: "Mixing history, myths, and current events, Dragon Bones is an extraordinarily rich novel. It reveals the emotional and economical entanglement of China with the West, and tells a story of violence, lust, greed, fear and desperation. The novel is not only a page turner but is also timely."
In addition to writing books, Ms. See was the Publishers Weekly West Coast Correspondent for thirteen years. As a freelance journalist, her articles have appeared in Vogue, Self, The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Washington Post Book World, and TV Guide.
She wrote the libretto for Los Angeles Opera based on On Gold Mountain, which premiered in June 2000 at the Japan American Theatre followed by the Irvine Barclay Theatre. She also served as guest curator for an exhibit on the Chinese American experience for the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, which then traveled to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., in 2001. See then helped develop and curate the Family Discovery Gallery at the Autry Museum, an interactive space for children and their families that focuses on Lisa's bi-racial, bi-cultural family as seen through the eyes of her father as a seven-year-old boy living in 1930's Los Angeles.
She designed a walking tour of Los Angeles Chinatown and wrote the companion guidebook for Angels Walk L.A. to celebrate the opening of the MTA's new Chinatown metro station. She also curated the inaugural exhibition a retrospective of artist Tyrus Wong for the grand opening of the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles in the winter of 2003. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, a novel about "nu shu," the secret writing developed and used by women in a small county in China for over a thousand years, was published in 2005, and Peony in Love in 2006.
See serves as a Los Angeles City Commissioner on the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Monument Authority. She was honored as National Woman of the Year by the Organization of Chinese American Women in 2001 and was also the recipient of the Chinese American Museum's History Makers Award in Fall 2003.
The Red Princess Mysteries
This biography was last updated on 07/15/2016.
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In two separate interviews, Lisa See talks about Peony in Love (2007) and Shanghai Girls (2009).
Lisa See discusses Shanghai Girls
What inspired you to write Shanghai Girls?
Four things, really. First, I've been collecting Shanghai advertising images from the Twenties, Thirties, and Forties for many years. The so-called Beautiful Girls, women who posed for commercial artists, were right in the heart of the excitement in Shanghai. The charming and captivating life illustrated in advertisements is one thing, but I was interested in seeing what real life was like for those women. I also wanted to write about what it was like for Chinese women who came to America in arranged marriages. (We had a lot of arranged marriages in my family. I know how hard life was for the women. They'd had servants in China, but they lived like servants in America.) Third, I wanted to write about China City, a short-lived tourist attraction in Los Angeles. And finally, I wanted to write about sisters.
What is it about Shanghai that so captures the imagination?
In part it's the juxtaposition of extreme oppositesdire poverty amidst flamboyant wealth, upstanding English gentlemen going to the same nightclubs as...
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