Lisa See on women’s friendship and the secret written language at the heart of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.
by MICHELLE HUNEVEN
LA Weekly, July 8
Lisa See, whose red hair and pale skin obscure her Chinese ancestry, arrives at the F. Suie One Company in Pasadena bearing dim sum — bao buns, shumai, stickers. A mysterious and rarely open Asian antiquities shop, F. Suie One has been in See’s family for a hundred years. As a child, when the shop was still at its original Chinatown location, the author played in the rickshaw and in a great carved wooden bed — as large as a small bedroom.
Over lunch, we discuss her fourth novel and fifth book, the enchanting Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Some years ago, See learned of the secret women’s written language nushu, and her fascination with it took her to Hunan’s Jiangyong County for research. The book is the story of a friendship between two young women who communicate through nushu in this remote, agriculturally lush and culturally repressive region during the 19th century.
L.A. WEEKLY: Where does this book sit in your oeuvre? On Gold Mountain is a memoir. Then came the three mysteries. And now a literary novel?