Excerpt from Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden by Zhuqing Li, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden

Two Sisters Separated by China's Civil War

by Zhuqing Li

Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden by Zhuqing Li X
Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden by Zhuqing Li
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2022, 368 pages

    Jun 20, 2023, 368 pages


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It was only when I was finished with college in China and my application to graduate school was blocked by my new employer that Jun appeared in my life, suddenly, and out of the blue. My mother told me that I had an aunt I'd never met, and that for the first time in thirty years, she was there in Fuzhou, visiting her family—something made possible when China and the U.S. established diplomatic relations in 1979.

"Maybe you should meet her," my mother said. Maybe with her foreign connections she would be able to help me go to graduate school, and in America.

And so I did meet her—and she did help me. She was a slender, elegant woman, with a confident manner and an amiable smile, somehow different from the other women I knew, even while wearing the Maoist outfit that she must have picked up from some local store in order to fit in. It was she who talked to me about the Garden. Then, shocked and saddened by my complete ignorance, she started to paint me a picture of the place that she once called home. As she reminisced, I felt as if she were holding my hand and walking me through the gate, pushing open that door that I'd been too scared to go through as a seven-year-old, and unlocking other doors to the past that the rest of the family had preferred to keep tightly shut. As Jun started to tell me her own and her sister's remarkable childhood and young adulthood, questions about Hong came to my mind for the first time: What was Hong doing and thinking at the time? What did she see and hear, and what was it like for her? I reached out to Hong for the other half of the story, and for the first time, learned from her far more than she'd ever seemed willing to tell me before. These two remarkable and pioneering women—sisters from the same family who lived their adult lives on the two sides of the bamboo curtain—had fought and won against adversities that might have crushed less powerful, determined figures. Their separation and gritty determination to succeed, which embodied the traumatic split of China itself as a nation, are what prompted me to write this book.

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Excerpted from Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden: Two Sisters Separated by China's Civil War. Copyright (c) 2022 by Zhuqing Li. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

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