All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

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Happy reading!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Shanghai Girls, by Lisa See

Lisa See’s The Shanghai Girls is a compelling story about the assimilation of Chinese immigrants in the United States during the first half of the 20th Century. The main characters, Pearl and May, are sisters raised in Shanghai during the city’s glory days in pre-Communist China. When war breaks out with Japan, the girls barely escape with their lives, due in part to the wisdom and resourcefulness of their mother, who dies along the way after being attacked by Japanese soldiers.

Their destiny is already set, having been married to sons of an American-born Chinese businessman through an arrangement with their father prior to their escape. Held at Angel Island for months, May gives birth and because only Pearl consummated her marriage, Pearl claimed the baby as her own. The interrogations at Angel Island are intense, but they are finally allowed to rejoin their husbands in California after the baby is born.

See’s book does an admirable job describing the ordeal many Chinese citizens faced in coming to the United States during this time. Because the breadth of the story covers more than 18 years, See gives only passing attention to major historic events which influenced the plight of Chinese citizens and immigrants. Segments of the books feel shallow and repetitive, as waves of anti-Chinese sentiment spread, business fare poorly, and characters face continued discrimination by schools, hospitals, and the police. The plot energizes again toward the end of the book, but See leaves the reader to determine what will happen to her main characters.

The Shanghai Girls is a engaging book and easy to read. The story is gripping at times, and is sufficiently historically accurate to educate readers about the plight of Chinese immigrants and citizens of Chinese descent. It was published in 2009 by Random House.

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