Lisa See

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Lisa See
Lisa See in Madrid (2012), by Asís G. Ayerbe
Lisa See in Madrid (2012), by Asís G. Ayerbe
Born (1955-02-18) 18 February 1955 (age 68)
Paris, France
  • Novelist
  • biographer
  • writer
  • community leader
SpouseRichard Kendall
ChildrenAlexander and Christopher

Lisa See (born 18th February 1955) is an American writer and novelist. Her books include On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family (1995), a detailed account of See's family history, and the novels Flower Net (1997), The Interior (1999), Dragon Bones (2003), Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005), Peony in Love (2007) and Shanghai Girls (2009), which made it to the 2010 New York Times bestseller list. Both Shanghai Girls and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan received honorable mentions from the Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature.

See's novel, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane (2017), is a story about circumstances, culture, and distance among the Akha people of Xishuangbanna, China.[1] Her 2019 novel The Island of Sea Women is a story about female friendship and family secrets on Jeju Island before, during and in the aftermath of the Korean War.[2]

Flower Net, The Interior, and Dragon Bones make up the Red Princess mystery series. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love focus on the lives of Chinese women in the 19th and 17th centuries respectively. Shanghai Girls (2009) chronicles the lives of two sisters who come to Los Angeles in arranged marriages and face, among other things, the pressures put on Chinese-Americans during the anti-Communist mania of the 1950s.[3] See completed a sequel titled Dreams of Joy, released in May 2011.[4] China Dolls (June 2014) deals with Chinese American nightclub performers of the 1930s and 1940s.

Writing under the pen name Monica Highland, See, her mother Carolyn See, and John Espey,[5] published two novels: Lotus Land (1983), 110 Shanghai Road (1986), and Greetings from Southern California (1988), a collection of early 20th Century postcards and commentary on the history they represent. She has a personal essay ("The Funeral Banquet") included in the anthology Half and Half.[6]

See has donated her personal papers (1973–2001) to UCLA.[7] During the 2012 Golden Dragon Chinese New Year Parade in Los Angeles Chinatown, See served as the Grand Marshal.

Early life[edit]

On February 18, 1955, See was born in Paris, France. See's mother was Carolyn See, an American student who later became an English professor, writer, and novelist. See's father was Richard See, an American student who later became an anthropologist.

See's parents were later divorced, and her mother married Tom Sturak. See has a half-sister, Clara Sturak. See has spent many years in Los Angeles, California, especially in and around the Los Angeles Chinatown.[8][9] [10][11][12]

Her paternal great-grandfather Fong See (鄺泗) was Chinese, making her one-eighth Chinese. This has had a great impact on her life and work. She has written for and led in many cultural events emphasizing the importance of Los Angeles and Chinatown.[13]


See graduated with a B.A. from Loyola Marymount University in 1979.[14]


See was the West Coast correspondent for Publishers Weekly (1983–1996).[15] See has written articles for Vogue, Self, and More; has written the libretto for the opera based on On Gold Mountain,[16] and has helped develop the Family Discovery Gallery for the Autry Museum, which depicts 1930s Los Angeles from the perspective of her father as a seven-year-old boy. Her exhibition On Gold Mountain: A Chinese American Experience was featured in the Autry Museum of Western Heritage,[17] and the Smithsonian.[18] See is also a public speaker.


  • 2019 To Climb a Gold Mountain - as herself.[19]


Among her awards and recognitions are the Organization of Chinese Americans Women's 2001 award as National Woman of the Year and the 2003 History Makers Award presented by the Chinese American Museum. See serves as a Los Angeles City Commissioner.[20] Her book Flower Net was nominated for the 1998 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.[21]


  • On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese American Family. St. Martins Press, 1995. ISBN 9781101910085
  • Flower Net. HarperCollins, 1997.
  • The Interior. HarperCollins, 1999.
  • Dragon Bones. Random House, Inc., 2003. ISBN 9781588362704
  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Random House, Inc., 2005. ISBN 9781408821626
  • Peony in Love. Random House, Inc., 2007. ISBN 9781408811795
  • Shanghai Girls. Random House, Inc., 2009. ISBN 9781408811801
  • Chinatown (guidebook), Angels Walk LA, 2003.
  • Dreams of Joy. Random House, Inc., 2011. ISBN 9781408826119
  • China Dolls. Random House, Inc., 2014.
  • The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. Scribner, 2017.[22][23]
  • The Island of Sea Women. Scribner, 2019. ISBN 9781501154850


  1. ^ "The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane – Lisa See's Official Website". Retrieved 2021-01-25.
  2. ^ "The Island of Sea Women – Lisa See's Official Website". Retrieved 2021-01-25.
  3. ^ "Lisa See with Daniel Olivas". "The Elegant Variation" (10/03/07).
  4. ^ Amy S. Rosenberg, "Novels Focused on Her Family Lineage", May 26, 2009.
  5. ^ Clara Sturak, "The Last Man of Letters, UCLA Magazine, Spring 2001.
  6. ^ See, Lisa, "The Funeral Banquet", in O'Hearn, Claudine Chiawei (ed.), Half and Half: Writers on Growing Up Biracial and Bicultural. pp. 125–138, Pantheon Books, 1998.
  7. ^ Lisa See Papers, 1973–2001. Collection Number 564. Department of Special Collections, Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.
  8. ^ Xian Liu, p.323
  9. ^ Bookbrowse, "Author Biography"
  10. ^ "In Memoriam: UCLA Emerita English professor and author Carolyn See". July 19, 2016. Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  11. ^ Rourke, Mary, "Carolyn See, award-winning Southern California writer, dies at 82", Los Angeles Times, July 14, 2016.
  12. ^ Dreaming: Hard Luck and Good Times in America, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996
  13. ^ Correspondent, Chauncey Mabe. "Author Q&A;: Lisa See". Retrieved 2021-07-26.
  14. ^ ""Biography", Barnes and Noble". Archived from the original on 2008-05-29. Retrieved 2008-09-06.
  15. ^ Xian Liu, p. 324
  16. ^ "On Gold Mountain: An Opera"
  17. ^ On Gold Mountain: A Chinese American Experience -- the Autry Museum of Western Heritage (2000-2001)
  18. ^ On Gold Mountain: A Chinese American Experience -- the Smithsonian Institution (2001)
  19. ^ Land, Jim (May 15, 2016). "TV Review: "To Climb a Gold Mountain" Misses Opportunity". Retrieved August 24, 2019.
  20. ^ "About the Author", Lisa See official web site. Archived February 4, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^
  22. ^ See, Lisa (March 21, 2017). The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. ISBN 978-1501154829.
  23. ^ "New York Times Bestselling Author Lisa See Interview". Aussie Osbourne. March 22, 2017.

Additional sources[edit]

  • Fenby, Jonathan. Modern China. New York: HarperCollins Publishers (2008).
  • Gifford, Rob. China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks (2007).
  • Liu, Xian. "Lisa Lenine See". In Asian American Novelists: A Bio-Biblical Critical Sourcebook, pp. 323–331. Ed. Nelson, Emmanuel S. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group Inc. (2000).
  • Pan, Philip P. Out of Mao's Shadow. New York: Simon and Schuster (2008).
  • See, Carolyn. Dreaming: Hard Luck and Good Times in America. Los Angeles: University of California Press (1996).

External links[edit]