Historical Fiction Annotation


Title: Shanghai Girls

Author: See, Lisa

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 309

Genre: Historical Fiction

Geographic Setting: Shanghai and Los Angeles (Chinatown)

Time Period: 1930s- 1950s

Series: NA

Plot Summary: Sisters Pearl and May Chin have grown up educated and wealthy.  They are models whose portraits are used for calendars and advertisements.  Their sophisticated lives of being entertained and wearing western clothes came to an unexpected and abrupt stop when their father arranged marriages for both of them to settle off gambling debts. Married to two brothers, their father-in-law instructs them to join the family in Los Angeles.  As they begin their journey, war breaks out in China. Although their first decision was to run away, difficult circumstances made it necessary to follow their father-in-law’s plan to come to America. While in China, their husbands’ family appeared to be wealthy, but once in America, they learn the all the members of the family must work very hard in family owned businesses and live very frugally. It is a story of the relationship of sisters from young adults to wives with cultural customs, self sacrificing decisions, and several life changing secrets affecting their lives. This complex story of sisters is layered with Pearl and May’s stories of their husbands, the challenges associated with adjusting to their new family and living in America.  While no longer living in China, the war in China still had repercussions on their life in America and how they lived in Chinatown. Everything affected their daily life, especially how they jointly raised the only child, a girl, born into the family and their relationship with her.

Subject Headings: Sister Relationships; Historical Fiction; Chinese Fiction; Immigrant Fiction; Los Angeles Chinatown Fiction; Family Secrets Fiction.

Appeal: densely written, historical situations, cultural tones, custom moral issues, characters slowly developed, sister relationships, complex secondary characters, multiple plotlines, family issue orientated, political, multiple country settings, open ended.

Three Terms that describe this book: relationships, layered, historical.

Similar Authors and Works (fiction): Tan, Amy – Joy Luck Club, a book of mother and daughter relationship colored by earlier immigration from China. Khlaed Hosseini – The Kite Runner: story of how the main characters develop and behave during political turmoil and how it affects their relationship.  Picout, Jodi – My Sister’s Keeper; story of two sister’s lives and the relationship that defines one sister’s role in life.

Similar Authors and Works (Non-fiction): Chai, May-lee and Winberg Chai – China A to Z: Everything You Need to Know to Understand Chinese Customs and Culture. Cho, Jenny: Chinatown in Los Angeles, California. Apter, Terri – The Sister Knot: Why We Fight, Why We’re Jealous, and Why We’ll Love Each Other No Matter What.

Name: Donna Mihovilovich

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: