On Gold Mountain: The One Hundred Year Odyssey of a Chinese American Family

Lisa See, Author St. Martin's Press $24.95 (394p) ISBN 978-0-312-11997-3
The See family history is becoming public property. First mother Carolyn with Dreaming (Nonfiction Forecasts, Jan. 2) and now daughter Lisa--but with something far different in mind. Always aware of her part-Chinese roots, she set out five years ago to learn about her far-flung and, as it turns out, famous paternal family. Her great-grandfather Fong See was an extraordinary figure. He established a business in Sacramento, Calif., and later in Los Angeles, when it was an unheard-of thing for a Chinese to do; married a Caucasian and fathered a large brood; returned to China on and off, spreading his wealth around in his tiny native village and creating another extensive family there too. Drawing on family legends and dredging up intimate history through countless interviews with uncles, aunts and cousins both in California and in China, See, PW's West Coast correspondent, has created a matchless portrait not only of a remarkable family but of a century's changing attitudes. The early anti-Chinese racism was horrific, and even 40 years ago it was hard for a Chinese to emigrate here, let alone become a citizen. The ambitions, fears, loves and sorrows of See's huge cast are set forth with the storytelling skills of a novelist--and a great, sprawling novel is what her book often resembles. There are times when it flags and the constant new names become tiresome, and a heartfelt but superfluous chapter on actress Anna May Wong disrupts the flow; but the book is a striking piece of social history made immediate and gripping. Photos. 60,000 first printing; Literary Guild alternate. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/1995
Release date: 08/01/1995
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 394 pages - 978-0-679-76852-4
Paperback - 394 pages - 978-0-7475-9907-4
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-307-94393-4
Paperback - 402 pages - 978-0-307-95039-0
Open Ebook - 441 pages - 978-1-101-91008-5
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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