The Opposite of Fate; A Book of Musings by Amy Tan

opposite of fateMany readers know Amy Tan as the author of novels exploring life in China and the lives of Chinese immigrants to the United States.  These are based in part on her own family history.  In The Opposite of Fate, she has collected her autobiographical writings and her essays about her writing.  Much of what people have written about her life is incorrect, and she gives us the real story.

Tan’s life has had tragic elements: the death of her father, the murder of a close friend, and her struggle with Lyme’s Disease.  Her relationship with her mother, an immigrant from China, has sometimes been difficult.  However, her life is not, by any means, entirely sad.  In addition to her great success as an author, she’s enjoyed playing in a rock band made up of authors, including Dave Barry and Stephen King, and had a very happy experience when she played a major part in script-writing and decision-making during the filming of her first blockbuster novel, The Joy Luck Club.  I read many portions of this book out loud to my husband, and he remarked many times, “Amy Tan is funny!”

(Helen Snow, retired from Information Services)

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

shanghaiThis novel by New York Times bestselling author Lee tells the story of two sisters from Shanghai, Pearl and May.  Despite their traditional parents’ protests, the two work as “beautiful girls,” models who pose for an artist who paints advertisements and calendars.  Suddenly their family faces economic difficulties, and the girls’ father sees no solution except arranging marriages for Pearl and May.  As much as the young women protest, they are soon married to men who are almost total strangers to them.  Then Japanese bombs fall on Shanghai.  As the girls escape, hoping to hide in the rural areas, they encounter enemy soldiers.  Although they do not want to join their husbands in California, this seems to be their only alternative.  Once at Angel Island near the California coast, they endure lengthy interrogation to determine whether they are in the country legally.  At last they go to live with their husbands and in-laws.  They work in their father-in-law’s shops and restaurants in an area called China City.  Eventually May finds more glamorous work in nearby Hollywood.  Through the birth of a daughter to one of the sisters, economic hard times, difficulties in adjusting to their new family circumstances, prejudice from the citizens of their new country, deaths of loved ones, and quarrels with one another, Pearl and May continue to draw strength from each other, learn to love America, and show that they have what it takes to survive.

The author based the novel on interviews with Chinese people who lived in the United States during this time period and on extensive reading.

I enjoy historical fiction and found it fascinating to learn about situations that were new to me. The author’s style and characters kept me turning pages!

(Helen Snow, Information Services)