Bestselling author Lisa See will present her new novel, Shanghai Girls, at the Library, Wednesday, April 29 at 19h30. Today she shares an essay that originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times, about the relationship between Los Angeles's Chinatown and her book.
Almost all writers write about place. Los Angeles writers are no exception. Walter Mosley, Michael Jaime-Becerra and Janet Fitch, to name a few, capture the intimate details of very specific neighborhoods. Sometimes the sense of place is so strong that the natural topography, the streets and what's on them, become as fully realized as a living, breathing character. The neighborhood I write about is Chinatown. Yes, a lot of my novels take place in China, but those stories wouldn't -- couldn't -- have been written if not for Chinatown.
I lived with my mother, Carolyn See, when I was growing up. We moved eight times before I turned 9, so Chinatown, where my paternal grandparents and my grandfather's brothers and sister worked in the family antiques store, became home base for me. To my eyes, Chinatown didn't change. More than that, my Chinese American relatives didn't move or change either. Rather, they were very much stuck in the past. It was a past that entranced me when I was a child; it's a past I long for every day, and one I got to write about in "Shanghai Girls."