Dreams of Joy

Dreams of Joy

4.1 447
by Lisa See

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In her beloved New York Times bestsellers Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony in Love, and, most recently, Shanghai Girls, Lisa See has brilliantly illuminated the potent bonds of mother love, romantic love, and love of country. Now, in her most powerful novel yet, she returns to these timeless themes, continuing the story of sisters


In her beloved New York Times bestsellers Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony in Love, and, most recently, Shanghai Girls, Lisa See has brilliantly illuminated the potent bonds of mother love, romantic love, and love of country. Now, in her most powerful novel yet, she returns to these timeless themes, continuing the story of sisters Pearl and May from Shanghai Girls, and Pearl’s strong-willed nineteen-year-old daughter, Joy.

Reeling from newly uncovered family secrets, and anger at her mother and aunt for keeping them from her, Joy runs away to Shanghai in early 1957 to find her birth father—the artist Z.G. Li, with whom both May and Pearl were once in love. Dazzled by him, and blinded by idealism and defiance, Joy throws herself into the New Society of Red China, heedless of the dangers in the communist regime.

Devastated by Joy’s flight and terrified for her safety, Pearl is determined to save her daughter, no matter the personal cost. From the crowded city to remote villages, Pearl confronts old demons and almost insurmountable challenges as she follows Joy, hoping for reconciliation. Yet even as Joy’s and Pearl’s separate journeys converge, one of the most tragic episodes in China’s history threatens their very lives.

Acclaimed for her richly drawn characters and vivid storytelling, Lisa See once again renders a family challenged by tragedy and time, yet ultimately united by the resilience of love.

Editorial Reviews

Chris Bohjalian
Once again, See's research feels impeccable, and she has created an authentic, visually arresting world.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
See revisits Shanghai Girls sisters Pearl and May in this surefire story of life in Communist China. Joy, the daughter Pearl has raised as her own in L.A., learns the truth about her parentage and flees to China to seek out her father and throw herself into the Communist cause, giving See ample opportunity to explore the People's Republic from an unlikely perspective as Joy reconnects with her artist father, Z.G. Li, and the two leave sophisticated Shanghai to go to the countryside, where Z.G., whose ironic view of politics is lost on naïve Joy, has been sent to teach art to the peasants. Joy, full of political vigor, is slow to pick up on the harsh realities of communal life in late 1950s China, but the truth sinks in as Mao's drive to turn China into a major agriculture and manufacturing power backfires. Pearl, meanwhile, leaves L.A. on a perhaps perilous quest to find Joy. As always, See creates an immersive atmosphere—her rural China is far from postcard pretty—but Joy's education is a stellar example of finding new life in a familiar setup, and See's many readers will be pleased to see the continued development of Pearl and May's relationship. Looks like another hit. (May)
From the Publisher
“One of those hard-to-put down-until-four in-the-morning books . . . With each new novel, Lisa See gets better and better.”—Los Angeles Times
“Once again, See’s research feels impeccable, and she has created an authentic, visually arresting world.”—The Washington Post
“A stunningly researched epic about revolutionary-era China.”—Los Angeles
“See is a gifted historical novelist. She illuminates a turning point in Chinese history when people still remembered the inequities of the feudal caste system, and in some cases embodied them. . . . See is unflinching in her willingness to describe it all.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“See’s fans will be glad to read more about Pearl, May and Joy, and See’s recurring themes of unbreakable family bonds and strong-willed women.”—The Oregonian

Library Journal
This is the eagerly anticipated sequel to See's Shanghai Girls, and what a sequel it is! Continuing the story of Pearl and May Chin, who escaped the Japanese invasion of China during the 1930s, the novel centers on Joy, the daughter that both women have raised, one as aunt, one as mother. When 19-year-old Joy discovers the identity of her "real" mother, she returns to China in 1957. Readers will be drawn in as they experience Joy's life in Mao's Communist China: her life on a commune, starvation, love, oppression, and her fight to stay alive. It's this struggle for life that May and Pearl understand all too well, and it's what sends Pearl back to China. Pearl has the fierce mother love that allows her to disregard her own life to save her daughter. And that's the essential question: What makes a true mother? VERDICT Readers of historical fiction will appreciate the authentic details that See weaves into her novel. You don't have to read Shanghai Girls to love this book, but if you have, this sequel will make you want to reread its predecessor. [See Prepub Alert, 11/22/10; 14-city tour; library marketing; see the Q&A with See on p. 76.]—Marika Zemke, Commerce Twp. Community Lib., MI
Kirkus Reviews

In this sequel to See's bestselling Shanghai Girls (2009, etc.), a daughter's flight leads to further family upheavals against the backdrop of Mao Tse-Tung's Great Leap Forward.

Twenty years have passed since Pearl and May Chin left war-torn Shanghai for California, to fulfill the marriage contracts their bankrupt gambler father had arranged.Now, Pearl's daughter Joy has impulsively immigrated to China to seek her birth father Z.G., who once painted the youthful Pearl and May for "Beautiful Girl" advertisements. Z.G. is not hard to locate—he is now the New Society's highest-ranking propaganda artist.But he has fallen into disfavor and is being sent to a peasant commune, Green Dragon Village, to reform his bourgeois aesthetic.Joy accompanies him to Green Dragon, excited at the prospect of living the communist ideals that so enthralled her as a University of Chicago student.For a while, the system works: Women are liberated from household drudgery, childcare and cooking (meals are provided by a canteen), crops are plentiful and people are being encouraged to have large families to augment the workforce. Z.G. returns to Shanghai, but Joy, who has married local peasant Tao, remains behind (she'll regret her marriage immediately after a wedding night spent in a crowded, two-room shack). However, soon the Great Leap Forward, thanks to several wrongheaded strategies (among them, plowing broken glass into the fields, overplanting wheat and a war on sparrows which wreaks environmental havoc), leads to nationwide famine.The once tranquil commune is now riven by strife.Under the rule of a corrupt party official who keeps all the food for himself, starving villagers resort to mob violence and cannibalism. Meanwhile, Pearl has arrived in Shanghai and is living in uneasy community with her father's former tenants and working as a street sweeper while she plots to rescue Joy and her new granddaughter.

Although the ending betrays See's roots in genre fiction, this is a riveting, meticulously researched depiction of one of the world's worst human-engineered catastrophes.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.02(w) x 5.24(h) x 0.86(d)

Read an Excerpt

More than a century of interaction with colonial and global agencies and forces have brought many changes to the lives of the Maisin people who live on the northeastern coast of Papua New Guinea. Yet ancestral traditions continue to strongly inform their way of life. Their beautifully designed tapa cloth, made from the pounded inner bark of the paper mulberry tree, most vividly connects the past with the present.

Using the various stages of tapa cloth production to frame a broader discussion of changes and continuities in Maisin culture (economic pursuit, social arrangements, gender relations, religion, politics, and the environment) Barker offers a nuanced understanding of how the Maisin came to reject commercial logging on their traditional lands. Viewed in isolation, the decision appears to be a confirmation of tradition over "modernity." Yet the book shows that it is the most recent, and perhaps dramatic, instance in a long chain of improvisations and compromises that have allowed the Maisin to remain true to core ancestral values while participating in wider social, political, and economic systems. Ancestral Lines provides an important counterpoint to the stereotype of indigenous peoples as passive victims of impersonal global forces.

While accessible to most readers, including those with little or no knowledge of Melanesia or anthropology, Ancestral Lines has been designed with introductory anthropology courses in mind. Each chapter opens with a description of succeeding stages in the creation and use of a piece of tapa cloth. These, in turn, lead into discussions of dimensions of Maisin life that correspond to the sections and order of most standard introductory textbooks.

Meet 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, as well as the critically acclaimed memoir On Gold Mountain. The Organization of Chinese American Women named her the 2001 National Woman of the Year. She lives in Los Angeles.

Brief Biography

Los Angeles, California
Date of Birth:
February 18, 1955
Place of Birth:
Paris, France
B.A., Loyola Marymount University, 1979

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Dreams of Joy 4.1 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 447 reviews.
BabsBonMots More than 1 year ago
Goodreads, you are spoiling me for anything other than reading! I had no intentions of whiling away the day by reading a book, but I received my recent win, "Dreams of Joy" on Thursday, started reading Saturday morning and couldn't stop. I have read Lisa See's other books ("Snowflower and the Secret Fan", "Peony in Love", "Shanghi Girls") so was very pleased to score this win. "Dreams of Joy" is a continuation of the "Shanghi Girls" story--in some ways I wish I had re-read "Shanghi Girls" before I started "Dreams of Joy", just so that I could refresh the characters in my head. "Dreams" is the story of Joy, Pearl's daughter. (This is hard, I don't want to spoil the story by sharing too much.) Basically, Joy finds out some family secrets and leaves her home (America) and goes to China, where she buys into the communist philosophy. Along the way she loses her naivety, falls in love, meets her father, learns that she is a strong person, as well as to appreciate her family. Basically she grows up. Meanwhile her mom (Pearl) follows her to China and learns some things about her ownself, her relationship with her sister, as well as her daughter. Really liked this book. As in See's other books, you will learn about Chinese culture and history. In this book, there are several characters with bound feet. With the onset of communism, women were discouraged from this practice. In fact, those who had bound feet were encouraged to unbind them, which turns out to be a painstaking process with less than ideal results. Although the feet will unfurl, they cannot be "normal" since the bones were broken in the binding process when they were young. In the afterward the author mentions the photos of Joseph Rupp and his bound feet project. It was interesting to read the stories of these women, who just accepted this rite of passage as necessary to getting a husband, as well as to see their photos. I'd post the website for you to check out, but this site doesn't allow - so, do a search for Rupp Bound Feet Project if you'd like to learn more. Highly recommend this book!
theReader278 More than 1 year ago
I loved reading this wonderful book! Excellent for a hot summer day!
-JACKI- More than 1 year ago
DREAMS OF JOY begins where SHANGHAI GIRLS left off, right after Joy, (19 years old), finds out that May gave birth to her. After the fight, Joy, a student at the University of Chicago, decides to leave her university education behind and move to China. Soon after arriving in Shanghai, Joy finds her biological father, a well-known artist, who after the shock that he'd fathered a child with May. The author does a wonderful job placing this intriguing family saga in the middle of Mao's "New China" with a balance of bringing the atrocities to light without over powering the family storyline. There is a great lesson in human nature that love, loyalty and perseverance can triumph and survive world unrest. Stunning realism and completely believable characters make this book a hit!
ceejai More than 1 year ago
The last book, "Shanghai Girls", has lived in my mind for nearly a year now. It was one of those rare books that I didn't want to see end and couldn't put down. The characters were both supremely tragic and yet somehow triumphant; the era and situations very thought provoking. Now, I'll be able to see how the saga continues - yea!! Definately recommend reading the earlier book first simply for context.
Psychomom02 More than 1 year ago
This is my first time reading a book from this author and it is a must read..I always read the reviews before i read the editorial reviews and i knew i would like but i LOVED it....Lisa See detailed descriptions of people,places and chacteristics transports you to the same places as her characters. I absolutely could not put this book down. The book is about two sisters that are different in many ways but the same. Lisa tells the story of how Pearl and May go from loving their sheltered,rich and fulfilled life in Shanghai and living as "beautiful girls" (models for advertisements) to poor plain average chinese girls that had to escape their home in Shanghai to go to America to live..Pearl and May was everything a traditional chinese daughter was not..they had dreams,aspirations,goals and they didn't believe in old chinese traditions..but their fate changed for worse not by their own doing but by their father to settle his debts. Their lives took a turn for the worst in the worst way..I can go on and on about this book but i want you to get the entire jest of it..the author is great about educating you on the chinese culture,beliefs and traditions and also language..you can even learn a few words in shanghainese..overall it's a great book,i couldn't put it down and i can't wait until dreams of joy is out so i can dive into that one as well..Well happy reading until next time.
Jane_Austen09 More than 1 year ago
In "Dreams of Joy", See beautifully rounds the circle she began in "Shanghai Girls." In fact, one can argue that you can't really understand "Shanghai Girls" completely on a first reading because the sequel brings a two dimensional perspective to its predecessor. See organizes her new novel in four sections -- The Tiger Leaps, The Rabbit Dodges, The Dog Grins, and The Dragon Rises. As in her previous work, it's fascinating to see how her main characters act against the background of their astrological signs. Joy's guilt-ridden journey to China to find her father and Pearl's loving pursuit are placed in the context of the tumult and suffering of Mao's China -- especially with regard to the horrific famine by Mao's misguided Great Leap Forward. Yet despite the extreme suffering around them, Pearl, Joy, Z.G., and May are able to find joy and to heal many of the pains of the past. I heartily recommend this novel. In bringing joy to her main characters, See brings abundant joy to her readers as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A bit wary because of some of the reviews, I hesitated in purchasing this book, however after reading it I'm glad I bought it. To be able to be reintroduced to Pearl, May and Joy and to see how life progressed for them was great. Filled with vivid descriptions of China with language that is neither simplistic or overstated, Dreams of Joy is yet another wonderful novel by this great author.
bookworm919 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. I recommend reading Shangia Girls first. This book had great character development. I learned a lot. Parts were diffult to read but it was worth it.
catmama3 More than 1 year ago
I first read another of Lisa See's books, "On Gold Mountain". I found this book about See's family fascinating and decided to read more. I ended up reading all of See's books. Dreams of Joy completes the story of the two girls in "Shanghai Girls". The story keeps you wondering what is going to happen and how things are going to turn out. It was well researched and written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this book won't make much sense unless you've read Shanghai Girls first. All the characters originate there and this is a good sequel.
toujours More than 1 year ago
Beyond the plot and the various interesting characters, I was fascinated by what, in the end, is a barely disguised description—and criticism—of Mao’s disastrous Great leap Forward, and of chinese culture in general.
beh88 More than 1 year ago
hard to get into but once i did, i couldn put it down... i was totally ignorant regarding China during this era....wow are we lucky to live in the usa
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have never read a more powerful book. The history amazed and horrified me. The charactors felt so real. I wish there was anouther book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just as the first book in this series, a fast reader because of it woven historical events within this families's lives. The strength within comes out when you most need it to survive. Have already looked up other Lisa See books and have added them to my must read list!
samcivy More than 1 year ago
Dreams of Joy Lisa See © 2011 (author of Shanghai Girls) Random House Trade Paperbacks ISBN 978-0-8129-8054-7 349 pp. plus photos and discussion questions After the death of her husband, Sam, Pearl and her sister May (characters in Shanghai Girls) quarrel and reveal family secrets to their daughter, Joy. (Yes, she’s both women’s daughter.) Joy has been influenced in college by tales of how wonderful Communism is in China, so she runs away to Shanghai to find her birth father and help build the ‘new China’. Pearl realizes the dangers for Joy so follows her to China, sneaking in through Hong Kong. She learns that Joy found her birth father, ZG, but doesn’t see them for months. Joy doesn’t realize their sojourn in a small Chinese village is government punishment for ZG, a famous artist. Joy also falls in love with a peasant boy, Tao, not really understanding the culture and disastrous life in China during Mao’s rule. The story brings alive Chinese life during early communism, with a host of characters we can relate to. Naturally, as with any well-written tale, complications set in for everyone. The resolution is surprising, but satisfying and suggests a sequel for May and ZG, plus Pearl and another man, Dun.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read! I couldn't put it down because I wanted to find out what happens next. The writing flows easily and being Chinese American, it makes sense the way Lisa writes from a Chinese perspective. The way she composes the sentences and uses Chinese words, they are familiar and really adds to the storyline. I hope there's a next book and I can't wait!
Book_Sniffers_Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When Joy finds out that the people she has called Mother and Father all her life are really her Aunt and Uncle and her Aunt is really her biological mother and her father is still in China, Joy is obviously upset. She runs away to China to find her birth father and to help rebuild the new China. Only, when she gets there things aren't really what she thought they would be. I liked Shanghai Girls and was really interested when this book came out. You have to read Shanghai Girls in order to pick up on a lot of what has happened. Otherwise you won't understand the reasoning behind why Pearl acts the way she does towards China, Z.G (Joy's father) or May. There are some references to the last book and even though I read it, it was so long ago that some parts took me a minute to catch up on. This story is split between Joy and Pearl. After all, Pearl takes off after Joy to China and tries to bring her home. She goes back to her old family house which is now run down and grimy and waits until she can find Joy. Meanwhile Joy is out traveling the country with her father who is an artist, painting, having an adventure and is totally oblivious to the dangers around her. This a captivating story about a mother's love for her child and the depths that you will go to to protect them. I enjoyed this story quite a bit and even though Joy annoyed me through the majority of the book by how naive she was being, the second things clicked for her, you started to see the woman that she will become.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lisa See’s Dreams of Joy is a follow up to her prior novel, Shanghai Girls. Ms. See is an accomplished novelist and her writing skills incontestably appear in Dreams of Joy. It’s a spellbinding story about youthful Joy returning to communist China and her stepmother, Pearl, purses her in an attempt to rescue her. Joy and Pearl are molded into heroines by overcoming awesome trails and difficulties. The novel has many impressive features. One outstanding quality is the accuracy of the historical setting that reinforces the authenticity of the interactions amongst the characters. Undoubtedly Ms. See did extensive research before writing the novel. The story accurately reveals how people struggled during a tragic period in modern China.
triviakat More than 1 year ago
I read "Dreams of Joy" before "Shanghai Girls" as I didn't realize it was the sequel. I do recommend reading SG first. There is so much depth to the lives of Joy, Pearl and May and uncovering the layers is a large part of what makes these novels so real. I had too much information when I read SG and feel I missed out on some of the natural progression of their relationships. That said, reading "Dreams of Joy" first allowed me to see that it is an excellent book in it's own right. It does not need "Shanghai Girls" to fall back on, though "Shanghai Girls" does give an enormous amount of background. As I read it, Joy was a strong and determined young woman, misguided by pain, confusion and innocence. I reread the beginning of "Dreams of Joy" just after finishing "Shanghai Girls" and realized I had a very different idea of who Joy is - I found her more of a willful, naive girl overall who, when wounded, struck out by making impulsive decisions with no thought or knowledge of how life changing they would be for her and those around her. Once again, I am impressed by See's commitment to research and her ability to make history come alive through her fictional characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend the whole series by this author. As a former history teacher, I love the way she reveals the history of China, through the eyes of the women in this family. You should read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan first. That introduces you to the culture and the reality of the little value placed on females. From there you go to Peony in Love, which continues with the lives of the women in Snow Flower. You learn about foot binding and ancestor ceremonies and more. The family line is followed in Shanghi Girls and that covers the cultural revolution in China. Now you are prepared to read Dreams of Joy. .....it's a good enough story to stand alone, but I strongly recommend you read the whole series in chronological order.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this even though some might describe it as a "chick" book - and I am not a chick. I couldn't put it down, captivated by the characters and the storyline. It helped that I had recently taken a class on Chinese history so the descriptions of events and the author's technique of weaving the story around major historical events was excellent. I will be looking at the author's other offerings as a result of reading Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy. One warning: it truly is a sequel so everyone should read Shanghai Girls first.
Laohu More than 1 year ago
This is a heckuva story. Even if you know something about Mao's China and the Great Leap Forward, this will make it real for you. A fantastic follow-on to her "Shanghai Girls". Lisa See shows her skill as a storyteller and researcher. I can't believe she's not actually Chinese, for she writes like one! She gives Amy Tan and Anchee Min a run for their money.
aunie More than 1 year ago
This book was even better than the last! I really enjoyed the wonderful descriptions of emotions in the characters. I felt like I was truly transported to the time and place. Definitely felt all the suffering, happiness, and love the characters were feeling. I was moved and feel like I learned a bit about history and chinese culture. A superb read!
BookHounds More than 1 year ago
The story of May and Pearl continues through their daughter, Joy. After just escaping the Japanese invasion of China, they must now save Joy from the communist revolution in China. Joy is living the American Dream and while away in college becomes part of a communist revolutionary movement that is taking place on her campus. She is encourage to return to her mother's homeland and help with the revolution, so she leaves her family in a fit of anger and begins a search for her roots. This leads her to discover that her mother and aunt haven't been completely honest with her or themselves. This one took me a while to get through and reflect upon. I never imagined the true horror of exactly what happened during China's Great Leap Forward or the toll it took on the people living during this time and from what I read about is still occurring somewhat today. I think anyone who grew up during the 50's-60's heard someone say "Eat your dinner, there are people starving in China" and this story illustrates just how true that was. This one was a bit hard to digest since the story is not a typical one of self discovery but one of just how difficult immigration and escaping the horrors of a homeland that is in turmoil
rtpana More than 1 year ago
This book was interesting because it does not hold back on the harsh reality of the brutality that was endured by the Chinese people under Mao. Some of the scenarios were unrealistic but the over-all effect was positive. A good, fast read beach book that leaves you with some understanding of another time and culture. I will continue to read Lisa See's books.