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message 61: by Janice(JG) (new)

Janice(JG) George | 150 comments The last 1/3 of the book begged for analogy and comparison -- with the situation of Middle Easterners and Mexicans, with the INS & McCarthyism of the 50's and with Homeland Security and the Patriot Act of the 00's.

I would bet money that Lisa See had an agenda, and that her agenda was to impress readers, especially lo fan, with the plight of "otherness" in white-owned America, and how damaging and/or dangerous it can be to remain complacent,ignorant, or misinformed about the situation.

According to Lisa See's comments at the end of the book, her family did in fact own the equivalent of old man Louie's curio shop in China City, where they remained until the 70's when they moved the (still thriving) store to Pasadena.

Here is Lisa See's cousin, Leslee Leong, owner of the F. Suie One Co. store, talking about the history of the store:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRl085...


message 60: by Janice(JG) (new)

Janice(JG) George | 150 comments KrisT wrote: "Viola wrote: "KrisT wrote: "I almost forgot. I worked for a Japanese woman several years ago. She was so amazed that I could not tell the difference between her and other asians. She tried to tell ..."


I laughed when Pearl mentions the sign posted by the cash register :
ANY RESEMBLANCE TO LOOKING JAPANESE IS PURELY OCCIDENTAL

I suppose the problem will go away when the differences don't matter anymore.


message 59: by KrisT (new)

KrisT | 553 comments Viola wrote: "KrisT wrote: "I almost forgot. I worked for a Japanese woman several years ago. She was so amazed that I could not tell the difference between her and other asians. She tried to tell me the traits ..."

Viola, well I am glad you said that because as you ascertained from my post I find it difficult to just see differences.


message 58: by Linda (last edited Nov 27, 2010 07:17AM) (new)

Linda | 443 comments When I looked up Year of the Boar, it ended up being the same as the pig, if I'm correct. Anyway, I'd much rather be associated with a Wilbur then the wild boar you have running around there! Yikes! LOL


message 57: by Shay (new)

Shay | 284 comments Linda wrote: "Tanja wrote: "Thanks for the post recommending other books related to the camps. I only knew Hotel by some comments and the desc -- thought it had more to do with the camps but thanks for clarifyin..."

I think they mean boar more than pig. At least, I don't think you're supposed to conjure up the image of Wilbur (Charlotte's Web). Have you ever seen a wild boar? We have them in Hawaii and people are scared of them- they'll gore and kill a pit bull. You can't even kill them except by setting a larger group of dogs (pit bull, rottweiler types) who surround them or a close range shotgun blast at precisely the right place. They're really scary and won't back down.


message 56: by Linda (new)

Linda | 443 comments Back to Tera's questions. I have several good friends from other countries, Ireland, Germany, South Africa, Italy, China and Japan. All lovely strong women who I feel very fortunate to have in my life. I very much enjoy sharing and learning about what makes us different and alike according to our culture. From my experience I have noticed a humbleness or should I say deference in some of my Asian friends that I would attribute to their culture. And on the other hand a gentleness, strength and understanding through patience and wisdoms, that sets them apart, also attributed to their culture. I find these qualities amazing, especially when my Irish/Italian heritage gets the best of me!


message 55: by Linda (new)

Linda | 443 comments Tanja wrote: "Thanks for the post recommending other books related to the camps. I only knew Hotel by some comments and the desc -- thought it had more to do with the camps but thanks for clarifying! I'll mark t..."

Tanja, I had fun looking this up! I'm a boar/pig, and yin earth. Some of it really reads true. But a pig.......REALLY??? LOL!

(actually, I love pigs!)


message 54: by Melissa (new)

Melissa (lissieb7) | 543 comments I am almost finished with this book and I am enjoying it so far. I was surprised by our treatment of the immigrants on Angel Island. I think this mostly because I had never really given the subject much thought. I think Lisa See has done a wonderful job of bringing to life the relationship between sisters. We love each other and are always there for each other. We'll defend the other to anyone over anything and yet there is jealousy and competition. I find myself liking Pearl and identifying with her. I am the older sister as well and that may be the main reason. I would be very interested in reading this same story told from May pov. The insights would be quite eye opening I'm sure. I am finding it interesting that Pearl has become "more Chinese" since moving to America whereas in Shanghai she thought of herself as more Western. She has learned to respect the past and her heritage. Another passing scene that has stayed with me took place when they first arrived in America. The white Russians whom they looked down on were treated better than Pearl and May. It is another example of differing perspectives. I am eager to finish this book and am looking forward to the sequel.


message 53: by Viola (new)

Viola | 1014 comments KrisT wrote: "I almost forgot. I worked for a Japanese woman several years ago. She was so amazed that I could not tell the difference between her and other asians. She tried to tell me the traits to look for bu..."

I am Asian of Taiwanese decent. I cannot tell the difference between Asians. And I'd bet most other Asians can't either. There do exist some differences, but they are small and not always accurate. Moreover, there can be a lot of variation in one country, like China. With 1.3 B people, there's bound to be huge variations. You can "guess" and some people can guess with a higher accuracy rate than others. But I find it insulting when people guess that I'm Filipino. (It's usually other Asians who guess this.) I'm not; I'm Taiwanese. And I'd rather you not guess, but just ask if you are really that curious.


message 52: by Janice(JG) (new)

Janice(JG) George | 150 comments Shay wrote: "In less striking ways, this happens to American women too. Female dominated professions make less money- you can have a master's degree in education and make less money than a high school graduate working construction. (Well, when there were construction jobs, but still..."


What you say is true, Shay. Here is the New York Times Wage Gap Map included in the article published last May, Why is Her Paycheck Smaller:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/20...


message 51: by Usako (new)

Usako (bbmeltdown) | 654 comments Thanks for the post recommending other books related to the camps. I only knew Hotel by some comments and the desc -- thought it had more to do with the camps but thanks for clarifying! I'll mark the other two books down.

For the zodiac, use wikipedia - Chinese Zodiac. You'll discover what type of animal you are - iron, wood, etc plus animal and your ying/yang. It's VERY interesting. And your day of birth does matter.


Love everyone's comments and perspectives!!


message 50: by Shay (new)

Shay | 284 comments Tera wrote: "The novel begins with Pearl saying, "I am not a person of importance." After Yen-yen dies, Pearl comments: "Her funeral is small. After all, she was not a person of importance, rather just a wife a..."

I would say that the view that women are inferior is still predominant in the Asian culture. Not necessarily an evil intent, but paternalistic. In the sense of women are in need of protection and guidance. (Probably in large part because of the belief that women are inferior.) It then becomes a self-perpetuating thing whereby women don't get educated, make money and therefore are less valuable to parents. So, you get infanticide of female children or some "humane" form of getting rid of unwanted female children. I know many people in Hawaii who've adopted girl babies whose mothers come to Hawaii to give birth and leave the girls.

In less striking ways, this happens to American women too. Female dominated professions make less money- you can have a master's degree in education and make less money than a high school graduate working construction. (Well, when there were construction jobs, but still...) It also occurs in less obvious ways like I bet more money was spent developing Vigra and Cialis than has gone into research on finding a cure for ovarian cancer.


message 49: by Tera, First Chick (new)

Tera | 2525 comments Mod
The novel begins with Pearl saying, "I am not a person of importance." After Yen-yen dies, Pearl comments: "Her funeral is small. After all, she was not a person of importance, rather just a wife and mother."

You can make the argument that those statements reflect the time or the Asian culture at the time but how do those statements cross over to women as a whole to women in America or other countries. Do you think that is a preception still held today? Is it a preception of society or of women? Who determines the value or self image of a person? Is it other women that define women? society as a whole? or each singular woman?

(you don't have to answer all of those questions obviously I am mostly curious how this book makes you think of society's definition of women and women's definaiton of women and how they relate to you to the time and to the book)


message 48: by KrisT (new)

KrisT | 553 comments I almost forgot. I worked for a Japanese woman several years ago. She was so amazed that I could not tell the difference between her and other asians. She tried to tell me the traits to look for but you have to really look someone over if the distinction is not just skin and build. She told me the brow shape, eye shape of course, nose shape and lip shape are very distinct. I can't grasp that is just a look so I could not get it totally. sigh


message 47: by KrisT (last edited Nov 22, 2010 07:37AM) (new)

KrisT | 553 comments I finished the book this morning. I am glad it will continue into a sequel also but I didn't feel it was hanging as much as some of you felt. I think this is one of those stories that is meant to be thought over before we find out what the author meant.

One of the things that has already been mentioned is the conflict between Pearl and May. Now that i finished I see what everyone meant but I also see there really were two sides to the coin. We saw Pearl's pov because she was telling the story but May brought up valid points. May suffered and sacrificed too that we never got the whole picture of. Did she betray Pearl or is that just Pearls skewed view point? Is all the story skewed? Do we accept what we were told by Pearl or do we accept into the story what could have been May's pov? I am still trying to digest this but have to head off to work. More later.


message 46: by Penny (new)

Penny (Literary Hoarders) (PennyK1970) I read this book for our little Book Club and it was wonderful. Once again, I really enjoyed how See tells the story from the one sister's perspective and then at the end flips it all around to see it from the other sister's perspective. Wonderful stuff! Just like she did in Secret Fan. This was a very enjoyable read and I hope the group likes it as much as I did!


message 45: by KrisT (new)

KrisT | 553 comments Just for fun since this is a huge theme throughout the book, here is a link to the Chinese Zodiac so you can see what animal you were born under.

http://www.chinesezodiac.com/index.php


message 44: by Janice(JG) (new)

Janice(JG) George | 150 comments Irene wrote: "The part that bothers me is that the discrimination continues. Many readers can feel sympathy for fictional characters, particularly when the setting is in the past. But, many newly arriving immigrants today (e.g. Mexicans, Arabs, Hatians, etc) are facing similar fear, discrimination, disorientation, and the like. I wonder if our grandchildren will read about the experience of an immigrant family in 2010 and feel a sympathy that many can not feel today. ..."


Good point. I'd like to think that part of the value of reading books like this one is to raise awareness of cultural differences & differentness in general, and to humanize our response to groups that we (still) tend to stereotype.


message 43: by Linda (new)

Linda | 443 comments I finished Shanghai Girls this morning and really liked it. One thing, and those of you who have also finished it will know what I mean when I say, I REALLY hope there is a sequel!

That being said, I think Lisa See captured the essence of sisterhood perfectly. I have a sister 14 months younger than me. However I'm not quite sure I would have been as patient as Pearl was with May. In fact, I know I wouldn't! I thought that May was very self serving and somewhat manipulative. But then again, this book is written in Pearl's voice. Needless to say, Pearl was my favorite sister.

I thought it was interesting how as life progressed Pearl started to see much of her mother in her own self. I'll speak for myself when I say as we get older, we can look at ourselves and see these things. I'm lucky to say, in my experience it's not a bad thing.


message 42: by Tera, First Chick (new)

Tera | 2525 comments Mod
Irene wrote: "Well, I am going to jump in. I read this over the summer. I both was and was not surprised by the difficult experiences faced by the immigrants. I know enough American history to realize that ma..."

That's an interesting post Irene. I think the topic of immigration is all about perspective. Reading Shanghai Girls of course I felt sympathy for these sisters and the families in general as they faced the fears of immigration. On the other hand living in a border state today and seeing nightly the terror that many border towns are facing because of the violence with Mexico I also understand that perspective. It's a tricky topic for certain and I'm not sure one made any clearer today than it was then.


message 41: by Marialyce (last edited Nov 21, 2010 06:19AM) (new)

Marialyce I read Hotel as well and thought it was basically a love story without too much about the interment camps. Better books about that subject are: Baseball Saved Us andThe Eternal Spring of Mr. Ito

I used these books with my sixth and seventh grade literature classes.


message 40: by Irene (new)

Irene | 2353 comments Well, I am going to jump in. I read this over the summer. I both was and was not surprised by the difficult experiences faced by the immigrants. I know enough American history to realize that many ethnic groups faced difficulties during the period of excellerated migration. Waves of new comers with different languages and cultural practices threatened those already here. And, it is a common reaction by those on the bottom of any social group to want to find someone to shift beneath themselves as a way of boosting status. European groups had the advantage of a bit of cultural familiarity. Germans, Italians, Poles, French, not only shared physical characteristics, but their people had interacted, intermarried, migrated across borders and engaged in trade for centuries before interacting in America. That was less true of Asians. It did not help that Americans of European descent could not distinguish between their Chinese alies and Japanese enemy. At the same time, I am surprised at the variations of experiences between each immigrant group. Depending on country of origen, date of arrival, location of settlement, etc, experiences were unique.

The part that bothers me is that the discrimination continues. Many readers can feel sympathy for fictional characters, particularly when the setting is in the past. But, many newly arriving immigrants today (e.g. Mexicans, Arabs, Hatians, etc) are facing similar fear, discrimination, disorientation, and the like. I wonder if our grandchildren will read about the experience of an immigrant family in 2010 and feel a sympathy that many can not feel today.


message 39: by Usako (new)

Usako (bbmeltdown) | 654 comments I wasn't surprised by the mistreatment. I've read and watched plenty of books/videos about the immigrants coming into the US. I do like how she expressed it.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet addresses how they were put into camps during WW II. Haven't read it but wanna soon.


message 38: by Linda (new)

Linda | 443 comments Brenda wrote: "Linda wrote: "I both agree and disagree with Brenda. The main difference I think might have been that the Chinese may have had it tougher because of the the very obvious physical and cultural diffe..."

I agree!


message 37: by Linda (last edited Nov 20, 2010 11:14AM) (new)

Linda | 443 comments I think the emphasis they put on astrology influenced their perspectives.

"Do you pay attention to your zodiac sign and check your horoscope? "

I used to. I studied with an astrologer for five years. I learn how to do charts and all the aspects of the signs, planets and houses. It was much more in depth than reading your horoscope. That being said, I don't pay attention to either now!


message 36: by KrisT (new)

KrisT | 553 comments A question:

The girls themselves but the chinese culture also puts a lot of emphasis on the year they were born and what sign they are under. Do you think they rang true for the characters in the book? Do you pay attention to your zodiac sign and check your horoscope?


message 35: by KrisT (last edited Nov 20, 2010 10:51AM) (new)

KrisT | 553 comments I am a little over halfway.I have read both Secret Flower and Peony and this one is just as meaty and gripping I think. I love the authors descriptions of the areas they live, the clothing and makeup, the art and the way they see other people.

How do you think Lisa See did capturing that sister relationship?

I think the relationship between the two girls was very realistic. Part of their closeness came from the dire situations they were in at times and the way their parents treated them. I do think that sisters are a closer friendship than other friends because you are family. You can not turn away from each other when things get tough growing up, because you are still family. Later as an adult it can change somewhat as you move away and so on.

Did you have a favorite sister or one that you related to more?

I myself have 6 living older sisters. I would say that the ones closest to me in age are not favorites just closer because of age. I have one niece that is one year younger than me and she is much like a sister also.

From the book: I have to say so far they are pretty equal. At the halfway point they have both had to pull the other up. I will see if this changes as I read more.

Shanghai Girls makes a powerful statement about the mistreatment of Chinese immigrants to the United States. Were you surprised about any of the details related to this theme in the novel?

I was surprised about a few things. First I didn't know what a 'paper son' was. I didn't realize it was so hard to get through immigration and I didn't know they had such things as coaching books. It seems that things have to be just so but what that is is up for grabs in the US.
Part of the extreme unreasonableness of the immigrations process I think was because of Japan at that time. I think all Asians were looked down upon whether they were born in the US or not. What I found interesting was how many of the Chinese living in the US wanted to just go home. The girls mentioned when they got to Old Louis and his sons, they thought the place was filthy and smelled. The conditions, I am sure were not good. Thinking of what they left behind and what they were now facing and wanting to go back to some degree must mean the conditions were horrible. Of course having a father in law like Old Louis and the family right there all the time was probably no picnic either.


message 34: by Linda (new)

Linda | 443 comments I both agree and disagree with Brenda. The main difference I think might have been that the Chinese may have had it tougher because of the the very obvious physical and cultural differences. It made it all the more easier to group and discriminate them. Think about what happened here with the internment camps.

By the way, after going on a class trip with my daughter to Ellis Island (great trip, so interesting,) I could somewhat imagine what Angel Island was like.


message 33: by Tera, First Chick (new)

Tera | 2525 comments Mod
Shanghai Girls makes a powerful statement about the mistreatment of Chinese immigrants to the United States. Were you surprised about any of the details related to this theme in the novel?


message 32: by Janice(JG) (new)

Janice(JG) George | 150 comments I was surprised to learn of the cultural ritual of lai see -- the collection of jewelry and money and other gifts at the wedding feast that belong only to the wife, so that she can have her own money/valuables to use as she sees fit. I think this is a very civilized idea coming from a culture that had only recently stopped binding women's feet to keep them in control.

This could be a very fair and equable practice to help support any woman who was dependent on her husband's salary for any reason, especially if she chose to stay home and raise her children as her main career, or wanted to go to school and get her degree. Food for thought :)


message 31: by Linda (new)

Linda | 443 comments I have. I thought it was a great book. I haven't finished Shanghai Girls yet, but I'm not quite sure why, I don't get the same feelings as I did with Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.


message 30: by Gillian (new)

Gillian | 618 comments Sandra wrote: "Have you all read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan?"

Not yet, but I want to!


message 29: by Sandra (new)

Sandra (Sandee) | 327 comments Have you all read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan?


message 28: by Maureen (new)

Maureen (Meg9000) | 84 comments Finished the book and found it to be a very good read. I'll tell you, those girls put up with a lot more from each other than I think I would have been able to. Found it very interesting to at last get May's perspective near the end of the book. Don't want to spoil it for those still reading, so I'll wait a little bit.


message 27: by Sandra (new)

Sandra (Sandee) | 327 comments I just bought this book yesterday and I cannot wait to start it tonight.


message 26: by Maureen (new)

Maureen (Meg9000) | 84 comments Hi Ladies! I am joining you also. Just got the book from the library and started it yesterday and am more than halfway through. So far I am enjoying the book very much, learning a little about life in China and for Chinese Americans. Love learning a bit about Chinese traditions, and am enjoying the colorful expressions such as: doing the husband-wife thing, being visited by the little red sister, and being a woman with 3 holes. Certainly gets the point across.


message 25: by Linda (new)

Linda | 443 comments Tanja wrote: "Linda,

There is no December Read. Tera posted about that HERE.

However, there is a current nomination thread for Jan's Group Reads HERE."


Thank-you Tanja!


message 24: by Shay (new)

Shay | 284 comments Linda wrote: "Brenda wrote: "Pamela,
We have two books a month. 11/1 to 11/14 and 11/15 to 11/30.
We usually have them read before the beginning of the discussion, so we were raring to go on 11/15.

But, that d..."


I believe, though, that someone has set up a Buddy Read that starts December 1st for The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver.


message 23: by Usako (new)

Usako (bbmeltdown) | 654 comments Linda,

There is no December Read. Tera posted about that HERE.

However, there is a current nomination thread for Jan's Group Reads HERE.


message 22: by Gillian (new)

Gillian | 618 comments Janice Geranium wrote: "There are two books with related stories that might be worth mentioning here. One is The Russian Concubine, set in 1928 in Junchow, in the International Settlement. It is full of e..."

Thanks, Janice, for these recommendations. I love historical fiction that is set in countries different than my own. My TBR list just grew!


message 21: by Linda (new)

Linda | 443 comments Brenda wrote: "Pamela,
We have two books a month. 11/1 to 11/14 and 11/15 to 11/30.
We usually have them read before the beginning of the discussion, so we were raring to go on 11/15.

But, that doesn't prevent ..."


Hi Pamela, I'm on page 55 of Shanghai Girls, so I hope to pop in on this discussion.

Do you know what the next book up for discussion is?


message 20: by Gillian (new)

Gillian | 618 comments I really enjoyed Shanghai Girls. I liked learning about that time in history and Chinese immigrants' experiences as they came to the United States. The only thing that I thought was really weak about the story was the ending, as it seemed really abrupt, but now that I hear there's a sequel coming out this makes more sense.

I have an older sister but our relationship is nothing like May and Pearl's. Maybe it would be if we shared such difficult experiences as they did. Growing up I remember being very competitive with each other. We are 2 years apart in age but we were only one grade level difference, and we had some friends overlap which caused some competition.


message 19: by Tera, First Chick (new)

Tera | 2525 comments Mod
Yes sorry that wasn't more clear. Chunky reads break it down into a reading schedule. That is why the chunky reads take 4-6 weeks to read and discuss. With the monthly books they are rarely long enough and often aren't broken up into discussable chapters like most of the chunky books are. With our short 2 week schedule we decide to use that two weeks to discuss different aspects of the book because most people had finished or were very close to finishing by the time we even began.


message 18: by Shay (new)

Shay | 284 comments Pamela wrote: "clarification question - hello could you clarify the start date 11/15 & end date 11/30? I thought this meant start reading on 11/15 & be ready to discuss starting 11/30 but it looks like it means ..."

I think that Christina also was under this impression, as was I. I think that because there was a schedule for the Chunky Read, I assumed that this would have a schedule too. So, I haven't read it either. I do have my copy and if, between the three of us we can come up with a schedule, we can read it "together". Sort of.


message 17: by Pamela (new)

Pamela Rodriguez (Cosita) | 1 comments clarification question - hello could you clarify the start date 11/15 & end date 11/30? I thought this meant start reading on 11/15 & be ready to discuss starting 11/30 but it looks like it means you should read it before 11/15 & the discussion window is 11/15 - 11/30? thanks


message 16: by Christina (new)

Christina (puppychuao) | 10 comments Brenda wrote: "Tera,
If you need a hand with the discussion, I found this great website

http://www.bookbrowse.com/reading_gui..."


Awesome, I love the depth of the questions on this site. Thanks Brenda. I've just started reading last night. Made it to page 3.


message 15: by Usako (new)

Usako (bbmeltdown) | 654 comments I recommend Empress Orchid, too!


message 14: by Janice(JG) (new)

Janice(JG) George | 150 comments There are two books with related stories that might be worth mentioning here. One is The Russian Concubine, set in 1928 in Junchow, in the International Settlement. It is full of excellent details about life in the Settlement & the Old City, with additional background on the Russian presence in China. See's stark descriptions of the streets of Junchow are accurate.

The other book is one I finished just recently -- Honolulu -- which has an uncannily similar point of view. The main character is a picture bride from Korea told in the first person. She also recounts her story in a reasonable and rational tone, free of emotionality. I have heard Alan Brennert, the author, compared to Lisa See in style.

I think the tone works. Anchee Min, who wrote Red Azalea and Empress Orchid and many other excellent stories of China, writes in a similar style, with the narration delivered in a flat, almost monotonous voice. I think it works especially in contrast to the horrors the narrators describe... to me it is a very effective tool


message 13: by Viola (new)

Viola | 1014 comments I enjoyed Snow Flower and the Secret Fan much more than Shanghai Girls. Still, I am a Lisa See fan, and I went to see her when she did a book signing event for Shanghai Girls. She grew up in the Chinatown that she describes in the book. Her grandfather owned the stores that described. It was really interesting to hear her talk about the book. She confirmed that there is a sequel.

I read Shanghai Girls over a year ago, so I'm working with a shaky memory here. I remember that I was disappointed with the characters. Growing up, I was the oldest of two girls. So you'd think that I'd relate to this book perfectly. But I didn't. I felt like there was something missing. Many parts of the book were very sad, but I found that the narrator's matter-of-fact tone lessened the emotional impact. In other words, I cried in Snow Flower and I didn't in Shanghai Girls. I like to have a stronger emotional attachment to characters in the books I read.


message 12: by Janice(JG) (new)

Janice(JG) George | 150 comments I have only started the book today, but maybe if I carve some time I can get a good chunk read.

As to the questions about the sisters, I thought the observation Pearl made about sisters -- or all siblings of any age -- always being compared to each other was a dead center truth.

The beautiful-girl posters & the wonderfully detailed description of the girls getting ready for their sitting piqued my curiosity -- and yes, there were just such advertising posters made in Shanghai in the 1930's.

Here is a site that sells copies of them:
http://www.zitantique.com/poster.html

They are indeed beautiful girls, and now I have a feel for our heroines.


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Books mentioned in this topic

Peony in Love (other topics)
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (other topics)
Dreams of Joy (other topics)
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (other topics)
Shanghai Girls (other topics)
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Authors mentioned in this topic

Anchee Min (other topics)