Saturday, October 06, 2007

Beyond FASCINATION: Lisa See Interview on The Elegant Variation

Mark Sarvas of the hip literary blog The Elegant Variation recently posted an interview by contributor Daniel Olivas with Lisa See, author of three mysteries; an opera libretto; a memoir that explores the history of her Chinese-American family; a novel that’s been translated into a zillion languages and is about to be made into a movie; and her latest work, the novel Peony in Love. Admit it, you love that title. Consider the fact that Lisa See is the daughter of Carolyn See, and you can easily understand why I found the TEV interview fascinating (yes, I love to learn what makes a writer tick, especially a writer with an unusual background). Add to all that the fact that Lisa See is Chinese-American and you’ve got a fascinating subject.

Plus there’s the book, which has just been added to my monstrous TBR list. As Daniel Olivas notes: “Peony in Love is based on the true 17th-century Chinese story of three ‘lovesick maidens’ who were married to the same man—one right after the other. They wrote the first book of its kind to have been written and published by women anywhere in the world. When asked to describe the novel, See observes that ‘ultimately, Peony in Love is about the bonds of female friendship, the power of words, the desire that all women have to be heard, and finally those emotions that are so strong that they transcend time, place, and perhaps even death.’ She adds: ‘I’ve written it as a ghost story.’”

Admit now that you’re intrigued as hell and I’ll completely understand. Cultural identity is such a huge topic for Lisa See as a person and a writer:

“I never thought too much about my identity. Who does, after all? But after I wrote On Gold Mountain, people started to ask me—and still do—‘What are you, Chinese or American?’ I know that because of how I look, I will always be seen as a bit of an outsider in [L.A.’s] Chinatown, but to me it’s home. It’s what I know. The same can be said for when I got to China. To me, it’s just a bigger Chinatown—very familiar and comfortable, but again, because of how I look I’ll always be considered an outsider. Then when I’m out in the larger white community in the United States, I look like I belong but sometimes I don’t feel like I do. That world can seem strange and foreign to me. So in writing these books I’m also trying to figure out who I am. Where do I fit in? Here, there, anywhere, nowhere? This quest doesn’t make it into the plots of the books. It’s just a journey I’m on as a person. But I’m not unique in this. Aren’t we all trying to figure out where we belong to some degree or another?”

Enough said. To read the entire TEV interview, go here. Thanks, Mark!


Blogger Sherry said...

I so love finding new authors...they may have been writing for awhile but they are new to me. Can't wait to read Lisa's books...

4:56 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Glad to be of help, Sherry! K.

7:13 PM  
Blogger Ello said...

You know it's so funny, I just did this post on a bad book review and it just now clicked to me that the reviewer Carolyn See is Lisa See's mother. How interesting!

I love Lisa See's books.

8:37 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Hi Ello! Small world, huh? This is the first I've heard about Lisa See. So many books, so little time!! :)

9:27 AM  
Blogger Daniel Olivas said...

I'm delighted that you enjoyed my interview with Lisa See. You'll love her new novel, no doubt.

12:41 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Daniel! How nice of you to stop by. I failed to look you up but now know why your name sounded familiar: I love La Bloga! K.

8:41 AM  
Blogger Daniel Olivas said...

Well, a big abrazo to you!

9:49 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Right back at ya, Daniel! And yes, I had to look that up, LOL!

12:17 PM  
Blogger Carleen Brice said...

I do love that title, and haven't read it yet. Adding it to the list. Sigh. The ever growing list.

8:39 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

I hear you, Carleen! K.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Daniel Olivas said...

My formal book review of "Peony in Love" appears in today's El Paso Times:

10:52 AM  

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