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On Gold Mountain: The 100-Year Odyssey of a Chinese-American Family Hardcover – August, 1995
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Lisa See, daughter of novelist Carolyn See, brings a novelist's skill to this sprawling ancestral history. Books tracing the roots of overseas Chinese writers are not uncommon these days, but See uncovered in her family tree a capsule history of the Sino-American diaspora: her great-grandfather, Fong See, founded a California business, married a Caucasian woman and fathered many offspring, and returned periodically to China to redistribute some of his wealth and launch another family. See, a Publishers Weekly writer, has conducted extensive interviews and drawn on family lore for an enthralling saga of ambition, prejudice, love, loyalty, and sorrow--social history at its best.
From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
Fong See, her great grandfather started making ladies underwear, married Ticie, a Caucasian woman before building a successful antique business. The family's story involves racism, romance, secret marriages and betrayals. Not only does On Gold Mountain tell the story of a family, it documents the history of America from the building of the railroads through the Great Depression into the post war boom of the fifties.
That is a lot of territory to cover. The story is meticulously researched and Ms. See does a good job of keeping the reader's head focused on the family tree. There is a lot going on and people and places to keep track of. In some areas the story dragged on. I felt some parts were important to document for the family but maybe not so interesting to the average reader.
I love Lisa See's fiction much more than this book, but I fully understand her desire to write it. In any event On Gold Mountain is a wide and sweeping history lesson in the people that help to make American the wonderful place it is. And I'm glad I read it. I learned so much.