*For the bibliography mentioned in the book, click here. A Thousand Miles of Dreams is an evocative and intimate biography of two Chinese sisters who took very different paths in their quests to be independent women. Ling Shuhao arrived in Cleveland in 1925 to study medicine in the middle of a U.S. crackdown on Chinese immigrant communities, and her effort to assimilate began. She became an American named Amy, while her sister Ling Shuhua burst onto the Beijing literary scene as a writer of short fiction. Shuhua's tumultuous affair with Virginia Woolf's nephew during his years in China eventually drew her into the orbit of the Bloomsbury group. The sisters were Chinese "modern girls" who sought to forge their own way in an era of social revolution that unsettled relations between men and women and among nations. Daughters of an imperial scholar-official and a concubine, they followed trajectories unimaginable to their parents' generation. Biographer Sasha Su-Ling Welland stumbled across their remarkable stories while recording her grandmother's oral history. She discovered the secret Amy had jealously hidden from family in the United States—her sister's fame as a Chinese woman writer—as well as intriguing discrepancies between the sisters' versions of the past. Shaped by the social history of their day, the journeys of these extraordinary women spanned the twentieth century and three continents in a saga of East-West cultural exchange and personal struggle. Visit the author's website for more information and upcoming events. http://www.sashawelland.com/index.html
Welland skillfully navigates the murky waters of memory, exaggeration, cultural misunderstanding and transformed identity, with both a scholar's critical eye and a granddaughter's desire to believe.
Remarkable. . . . A coming-of-age account of the Ling sisters, Welland’s book . . . reveal[s] new insights about the role of Chinese women as it changed not only in China but also the West. . . . A well-crafted and lively book that is sure to capture the imagination of lay readers and scholars alike.
The Seattle Times
Welland wisely refrains from intruding on the narration, allowing her fascinating topic to speak for itself. Scholarly and 'serious' in its depth and breadth of research, Welland's book is also highly readable and full of rich detail. . . . This is a book that enlightens as much as it delights and remains with you long after the reading.
Sasha Welland's deft and gripping biography of her grandmother and great-aunt is elegiac but never sentimental. It is compelling, lucid, historically nuanced, and an absorbing read.
Sasha Su-Ling Welland is Heartland-born, with deep China roots. In A Thousand Miles of Dreams, she reaches back through family documents and her own scholarly reading of the historical record to create a portrait of a family's personal journey that is moving, passionate, and fully accessible.
This is a wonderfully written account of two Chinese modern girls whose lives traversed the entire twentieth century from China to England and the United States. Their artistic and professional accomplishments through decades of war and exile may be legendary, but their personal lives were also filled with many human frailties. Intermixed with Welland's reminiscences of growing up in the United States as a Eurasian whose mother was partly raised by an African American housekeeper, the tales of these women weave an intricate tapestry of literary pursuit, transnational migration, an interracial affair, and middle-class domesticity. The author wields the pen of a historian, an ethnographer, and a poet, but ultimately it is the writer as a granddaughter and a grandniece that gives the story its most intimate human touch.
Anna Maria Hong
With magnificently fluid erudition and a compassionately wry eye, Sasha Su-Ling Welland forges the story of two remarkable women whose lives expand our knowledge of twentieth-century feminism in China, the U.S., and Britain. Weaving her own autobiographical accounts into the mix, Welland deftly depicts how the absurdities of racial and sexual constructs persist over time and place, while arguing for the resolute power of following one's heart.
(Starred Review) Booklist
Welland is an anthropologist with a novelist’s eye for the art of both making lives and making books. She weaves biography, memoir, genealogy, social history, literary criticism, and theoretical reflection coherently, accessibly, and, indeed, beautifully.
Virginia Woolf Miscellany
- Peter Stansky
An intriguing and memorable study. . . . We have been told the lives of two powerful and interesting women . . . both determined to surmount as best they could the restrictions placed on women’s lives.
H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online
- Valentina Boretti
Biographies are said to narrate the life of an individual. In this multi-layered work, Sasha Su-Ling Welland accomplishes much more, as she relates a complex story of re-creations, self-discovery, and selective memories. . . . [A] well-written and valuable work, especially for the many interesting points that it makes on the intricacies of cultural encounters, usages of the past, and exoticism.
- March 2008
With elegant writing and a delicate anthropological touch, Sasha Su-Ling Welland offers . . . an intriguing biography of two Chinese sisters. . . . Overall, while a fine biography, this book is also an informative and engaging work in the literary genre of ethnography, enhancing our understanding of women, education, and intellectual history in modern China, as well as exploring the experiences of Chinese immigrants in the United States and Europe.
Times Literary Supplement
Fascinating . . . Sasha Welland has produced a wonderful book from the lives of these two strong sisters.
Washington Post Book World
Welland's forebears could fairly be called trailblazing, and . . . she deftly shows how their lives mingled with history.
Welland, a lecturer in anthropology and women's studies at the University of Washington-Seattle, reconstructs the lives of her elite Cantonese grandmother, Amy Ling Chen, who in 1925 won a scholarship to study medicine in the United States, and of Amy's elder sister, Ling Shuhua, a writer and painter who remained in China until 1945. Welland balances family sources with meticulous research and insightful reading of Shuhua's fiction. Describing the anti-Communist paramilitary violence targeting Chinese "modern girls" that precipitated Amy's emigration, Welland charts her grandmother's courageous years as a medical intern and her subsequent pursuit of all-American respectability after marriage to a successful Chinese researcher. Welland also recounts Shuhua's frustrated existence as a faculty wife and struggling writer at Wuhan University, sensitively examining records of Shuhua's affair with visiting British lecturer Julian Bell, Virginia Woolf's nephew. Welland also tracks Shuhua's tenuous postwar relationship to the Bloomsbury Group (Julian Bell having died in the Spanish Civil War) and the genesis of her memoir Ancient Melodies-published by Leonard Woolf's Hogarth Press in 1953. This restrained and melancholy biography is filled with fascinating glimpses of 20th-century Chinese women's intellectual history and insights into the Chinese-American and Anglo-Chinese experience. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.09 (h) x 0.82 (d)
Meet the Author
Sasha Su-Ling Welland has woven together the remarkable lives of her grandmother and great-aunt in this biography. She is assistant professor of anthropology and women studies at the University of Washington.