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On Gold Mountain


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About the Author

Lisa See is the "New York Times" bestselling author of "Shanghai Girls, Peony in Love, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Flower Net" (an Edgar Award nominee), "The Interior" and "Dragon Bones." She wrote the libretto for the Los Angeles Opera adaptation of On Gold Mountain and served as curator for the Autry Museum of Western Heritage's exhibit "On Gold Mountain: A Chinese American Experience, " also featured at the Smithsonian Institute. The Organization of Chinese American Women named her the 2001 National Woman of the Year. She lives in Los Angeles.


The See family history is becoming public property. First mother Carolyn with Dreaming (Nonfiction Forecasts, Jan. 2) and now daughter Lisa‘but with something far different in mind. Always aware of her part-Chinese roots, she set out five years ago to learn about her far-flung and, as it turns out, famous paternal family. Her great-grandfather Fong See was an extraordinary figure. He established a business in Sacramento, Calif., and later in Los Angeles, when it was an unheard-of thing for a Chinese to do; married a Caucasian and fathered a large brood; returned to China on and off, spreading his wealth around in his tiny native village and creating another extensive family there too. Drawing on family legends and dredging up intimate history through countless interviews with uncles, aunts and cousins both in California and in China, See, PW's West Coast correspondent, has created a matchless portrait not only of a remarkable family but of a century's changing attitudes. The early anti-Chinese racism was horrific, and even 40 years ago it was hard for a Chinese to emigrate here, let alone become a citizen. The ambitions, fears, loves and sorrows of See's huge cast are set forth with the storytelling skills of a novelist‘and a great, sprawling novel is what her book often resembles. There are times when it flags and the constant new names become tiresome, and a heartfelt but superfluous chapter on actress Anna May Wong disrupts the flow; but the book is a striking piece of social history made immediate and gripping. Photos. 60,000 first printing; Literary Guild alternate. (Aug.)

"Astonishing....A comprehensive and exhaustively researched account of a Chinese-American family...that juggles such explosive elements as race, class, tradition, prejudice, poverty, and great wealth in new and relatively unexpected combinations."--The Los Angeles Times

See, the West Coast columnist for Publishers Weekly, has produced an insightful account of her family. In 1871, Fong See left China to search for his father, who had come to work on the U.S. transcontinental railroad. Fong See eventually settled in Sacramento, California, and established a factory that made lingerie for brothels. He went on to found an Asian arts store in Los Angeles, had four wives and 12 children, and lived to be 100. This is an unusual account, for See's family did not follow the path of most Chinese Americans: Fong See broke the law (in effect till 1947) and married a Caucasian before moving to Los Angeles. In addition, See effectively integrates historical material on China and America with straightforward genealogy. This book helps fill the void of material on the Chinese American experience in the United States. Recommended for all academic and public libraries.-Dennis L. Noble, Sequim, Wash.

YA‘In 1871, Fong See left his village in China to find his father and three older brothers, who had come to the U.S. years earlier. He found his father running an herbal emporium in Sacramento; when the man returned to China, Fong See remained, and his brothers followed him into a new business‘manufacturing split underwear for prostitutes. An orphaned teen, red-headed Letticie Pruett, was determined to prove herself indispensable to Fong See in his work, especially in his dealings with whites. The story of Ticie and Suie becomes the major thread of this family history. The evolution of the F. See On Company, one of Los Angeles's major Asian art stores; the give and take of Ticie and Suie's marriage; the lives of their four children; their journeys back to China; their divorce; Ticie's single life; and Suie's new family enliven this saga. Teens are offered an initimate glimpse of these people and witness instance after instance of the discrimination they suffered.‘Barbara Hawkins, Oakton High School, Fairfax, VA

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