En una remota provincia de China, las mujeres crearon hace siglos un lenguaje secreto para comunicarse libremente entre sí: el nu shu. Aisladas en sus casas y sometidas a la férrea autoridad masculina, el nu shu era su única vía de escape. Mediante sus mensajes, escritos o bordados en telas, abanicos y otros objetos, daban testimonio de un mundo tan sofisticado como implacable. El año 2002, la autora de esta novela viajó a la provincia de Huan, cuna de esta milenaria escritura fonética, para estudiarla en ...
En una remota provincia de China, las mujeres crearon hace siglos un lenguaje secreto para comunicarse libremente entre sí: el nu shu. Aisladas en sus casas y sometidas a la férrea autoridad masculina, el nu shu era su única vía de escape. Mediante sus mensajes, escritos o bordados en telas, abanicos y otros objetos, daban testimonio de un mundo tan sofisticado como implacable. El año 2002, la autora de esta novela viajó a la provincia de Huan, cuna de esta milenaria escritura fonética, para estudiarla en profundidad. Su prolongada estancia le permitió recoger testimonios de mujeres que la conocían, así como de la última hablante de nu shu, la nonagenaria Yang Huanyi. A partir de aquellas investigaciones, Lisa See concibió esta conmovedora historia sobre la amistad entre dos mujeres, Lirio Blanco y Flor de Nieve.
Como prueba de su buena estrella, la pequeña Lirio Blanco, hija de una humilde familia de campesinos, será hermanada con Flor de Nieve, de muy diferente ascendencia social. En una ceremonia ancestral, ambas se convierten en laotong —«mi otro yo» o «alma gemela»—, un vínculo que perdurará toda la vida. Así pues, a lo largo de los años, Lirio Blanco y Flor de Nieve se comunicarán gracias a ese lenguaje secreto, compartiendo sus más íntimos pensamientos y emociones, y consolándose de las penalidades del matrimonio y la maternidad. El nu shu las mantendrá unidas, hasta que un error de interpretación amenazará con truncar su profunda amistad.
Escrita con la objetividad de un historiador y la pasión de un novelista, El abanico de seda es una ventana a un mundo asombroso, lejano y desconocido, un retrato vivo de la vida de unas mujeres extraordinarias que dejará en el lector, sin duda, una impresión difícil de olvidar.
Lisa See may not appear to fit the standard conception of a Chinese-American woman, but her deep roots in her Chinese background have set her on a path leading her to being one of the most significant Asian-American voices in contemporary writing.
At first glance, Lisa See would not seem to be a likely candidate for literary voice of Chinese-American women. With her flaming red hair and freckled complexion, she hardly adheres to any stereotypical conceptions of what an Asian-American woman should look like, however, her familial background has given her roots in Chinese culture that have fueled her eloquent, elegant, and exciting body of work.
See grew up in the Chinatown section of Los Angeles. Although she is only 1/8 Chinese, her upbringing provided her with a powerful connection to that fraction of herself. "I really grew up in this very traditional, old Chinese family," she revealed in an interview with Barnes & Noble.com. "It was very traditional, but also quite magical in a lot of ways, because I really was in a very different culture then how I looked."
See's Chinese background was not the only aspect of her family that affected the course her life has taken. She also comes from a long line of writers and novelists. Her somewhat morose relatives initially led her to believe that writing must be the result of suffering and pain, which turned her off from literary pursuits at first. Ironically, despite her strong family roots, See only decided to try her hand at writing as a means of embarking on a lifestyle without roots. "I knew three things," See said, "I never wanted to get married, I never wanted to have children, and I only wanted to live out of a suitcase. How am I gonna do it? And I was really thinking about it, and then one morning, I woke up, and it was truly like a light bulb went off‘Oh, I could be a writer!' Many, many years later, here I am, married, I have children, [and] I am a writer."
In the wake of this unexpected epiphany, Lisa See began work on her first book On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family. This highly detailed family history charted the events that led her great-grandfather Fong See to become the godfather of her Chinatown neighborhood and the 100-year-old patriarch of her family. See interviewed close to 100 of her relatives while researching the book that both gave her a clearer portrait of how her racially mixed family developed and broke her into the publishing business.
See then went on to explore other aspects of both Chinese and American culture via fiction. She followed her debut with a series of popular political thrillers set in China and featuring American attorney David Stark. Her novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan abandons Stark and his pursuit of justice for the time being with a tale that reaches much further back into Chinese culture, and more specifically, the subordinate role women have traditionally played in that culture. This more personal novel scored See accolades from The Washington Post, The New York Times, Publisher's Weekly, and The School Library Journal, while also further solidifying her role as a significant Chinese-American writer. And See's Peony in Love (2007) is a jarring historical novel set against the backdrop of an early-17th-century Chinese opera
See's position in the Chinese-American community has also extended beyond her writing. She was honored by the Organization of Chinese American Women as National Woman of the Year in 2001 and is also responsible for designing a walking tour of her Chinatown home in L.A. Her devotion to that apparently-small, but actually-vast, 1/8 of her ethnicity proves that well-worn adage about never judging a book by looking at its cover.
Good To Know
In our interview, See shared lots of fun facts and anecdotes about herself, including:
"I asked my husband what he thought was an interesting fact about me, and he said that he always thought it was strange that when we first met I had to drink three cups of coffee before I got out of bed, but that after I got pregnant I never ever had another cup of coffee again. That didn't seem terribly exciting, so I asked my sister. She said that I take perverse pleasure in grossing people out, which I do. But this didn't seem very interesting either. I asked my mother and she remembered that I'd been a demon crawler and had once crawled away from the house, down to a busy boulevard, and was rescued by a couple of barbers. So I was a demon crawler and probably took ten years off my mother's life that day, but was it a fun fact? I've even asked some other people and they all have talked about my desire to travel and the scary places I have traveled alone. While I know that I'm a compulsive traveler, a lot of other people love to travel, so it still doesn't seem that unusual to me."
"I never wanted to be a writer. My mother and my grandfather were both writers. When I was a kid, they both took the position that writing was about suffering and pain, so you can see why I didn't want to be a writer. There came a time when I was about twenty and living in Greece, and I knew three things: I didn't want to get married, I didn't want to have children, and I only wanted to live out of a suitcase. But how was I going to support myself and how was this ever going to happen? One morning I woke up and it was like a light bulb went off: ‘Ah, I could be a writer.' Within twenty-four hours of returning back to the States I had my first two magazine assignments. But if you've been reading this at all closely, you know that I got married and had children. And thank God, because I would have been a pretty boring person and not a very good writer if I didn't have those three people in my life. But I still do love to live out of a suitcase and have been writing most of these answers on a plane from Shanghai to San Francisco."
"I think one of the strangest things about me is the way I read books. This dates back to when I started reading chapter books as a kid and continues to this day. I read the first 20 pages, then the last 20 pages. After that, the second 20 pages and the penultimate 20 pages. I read from front to back and from back to front until I meet in the middle. Why? I can't stand not knowing what happens to the characters. Will they be okay? Will they live? Will they get together? It doesn't take away from the suspense or ruin the story for me in any way. Not doing it would ruin the story because I would have to rush and I'd be so anxious that I wouldn't be able to do anything else until I was done."
"I'm a movie fanatic. I see more than 100 movies a year. Sometimes I'll see two or three movies in a day. Between this and reading books the way I do, I have a very good sense of plot. I can watch the first five minutes of any television show and the first ten minutes of just about any movie and tell you everything that will happen. It's very rare that I'm taken by complete surprise. But to me it isn't about the surprise. I'm just curious to see how things have been structured, if the right clues have been doled out, and if the right people will get together."
"I like to eat, but I don't like to cook. I'll eat anything and havea low point would have to be the stir-fried pig penis in Chinabut there are only three things I won't eat: lima beans, brains, and kidneys. I hate exercise, but I love to play tennis, walk, and hike. I love stories in any form: film, books, song, and TV. Yes, I'm a real couch potato! I'm a nut for reality shows like ‘Survivor' and ‘American Idol.' My three favorite shows this season are ‘The OC,' ‘Lost,'and ‘Battlestar Gallactica.' And I'm a not-so-closet Trekkie. (Yes, I've even been to Star Trek conventions, but I blame that on my sons.) For so long I would say I hated sci-fi, and then I finally realized that it was one of my favorite genres. Go figure. My favorite way to unwind? That would have to be sleeping, hands down. I love to sleep and I take it very seriously. We recently got a Tempur-Pedic mattress and it's my favorite purchase ever. I long to go to bed and feel enveloped."