Lisa See is a celebrated American author of contemporary fiction and historical fiction. Many of her books explore the experiences of Chinese and Chinese-American women living in different periods of history. However, with such a vast collection of published novels, it can be challenging to know where to start when diving into Lisa See’s stories.
This reading guide will provide a comprehensive list of Lisa See’s books by publication date and genre, allowing you to explore her work chronologically and fully appreciate her development as a writer across her body of work.
Lisa See was born in Paris, France, to Chinese immigrant parents. However, she grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Writing and Communications. She is well known for her bestselling novels such as “Shanghai Girls,” “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan,” and “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane.”
Throughout her career, Lisa See has been recognized for her contributions to Chinese-American literature and culture. Her work has received numerous accolades, including the National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship and the Chinese American Museum’s History Makers Award. She resides in Los Angeles but frequently travels for research related to her writing.
By Publication Date
To explore Lisa See’s books in their publication order, please follow the list:
On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family
Lisa See’s family history embodies the American experience through cultural assimilation, resilience, and business ingenuity, as chronicled in her acclaimed book “On Gold Mountain.” Her great-great-grandfather arrived in America for better opportunities and used Chinese herbal remedies to heal his fellow laborers.
Lisa See’s childhood intertwined with her family history, growing up in Los Angeles’s Chinatown, where she attended a segregated school, surrounded by stories of missionaries, prostitution, movie stars, and Chinese baseball teams, all of which her family helped shape.
The legacy of her family’s struggle and triumph in the face of adversity inspired her prolific career as a writer, producing vivid portraits of Chinese-American culture. The See family history is a compelling story of courage, tenacity, and the human spirit.
Flower Net: A Red Princess Mystery (Red Princess Mysteries Book 1)
“Flower Net” is the first book of The Red Princess Mystery. Set in the final days of Deng Xiaoping’s rule, this book tells the story of an American ambassador’s son found dead in a frozen lake in Beijing. At the same time, a ship full of undocumented Chinese immigrants is discovered off the coast of Southern California.
David Stark, an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and police detective Liu Hulan join forces to solve a cross-cultural murder in a unique collaboration between the governments of China and the United States. From the glitzy karaoke bars of China’s new elite to the tangled alleyways of Beijing’s ancient hutongs, the investigation takes a thrilling journey through China.
“Flower Net” was a national bestseller, nominated for the Edgar Award for best first fiction, and hailed by The New York Times as a Notable Book. Alongside the gripping investigation, “Flower Net” also explores the forbidden passion between Stark and Liu, leading to a heart-racing conclusion.
The Interior: A Red Princess Mystery (Red Princess Mysteries Book 2)
“The Interior” is a thrilling sequel to Lisa See’s bestselling novel “Flower Net.” The story follows Liu Hulan and David Stark on an intense journey into China’s remote countryside. They investigate a suspicious death at a toy factory on behalf of a friend.
Their separate investigations converge when they discover Knight International, the company about to be sold to David’s new client, Tartan Enterprises, may be involved in unethical and illegal activities, including murder, child labor, and unsafe practices.
Hulan and David race against time to uncover the truth as the body count rises. Along the way, they confront their personal lives and beliefs, including the privilege of the ruling class and the poverty of peasant life. Deftly weaving the plot between Los Angeles, Beijing, and the Chinese countryside,
“The Interior” showcases the stark contrast between Eastern and Western traditions. The novel is a gripping story that delves deep into the heart of China, revealing universal truths about good and evil and the fine lines that separate them.
Dragon Bones: A Novel (Red Princess Mysteries Book 3)
In “Dragon Bones,” Ministry of Public Security agent Liu Hulan and her husband, American attorney David Stark, are sent to Site 518 to investigate the mysterious death of an American archaeologist whose body was found in the Yangzi River.
David is also on a mission to find a stolen relic that would prove China’s claim as the world’s oldest civilization. But the artifact’s immense value attracts a host of nefarious adversaries, including the Chinese government, a religious cult, an art collector, and others willing to spill blood to acquire it.
Against the backdrop of China’s largest hydroelectric project since the Great Wall, Hulan and David confront their relationship issues while battling their enemies to the death. Dragon Bones,” book 3 in the Red Princess mysteries, weaves contemporary anxieties of terrorism and religious fanaticism with ancient myth and historical facts to create a thrilling tale of betrayal, love, murder, ecology, and greed.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
“Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” by Lisa See is a standalone novel that takes you on a poignant journey back to nineteenth-century China. In a remote Hunan county, where women were footbound and lived in seclusion, girls developed nu shu, a secret code for communication. Some girls were paired with laotongs, “old sames,” and used nu shu to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.
The story follows the emotional journey of two laotongs, Snow Flower and Lily, who become lifelong friends when Snow Flower writes a poem of introduction on a silk fan in nu shu. However, as the years pass and they face famine, rebellion, arranged marriages, and loneliness, their friendship is tested, and a misunderstanding threatens to tear them apart.
“Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” captures the joys and tragedies of motherhood, the power of female friendship, and the profoundly moving history of China’s past. With period detail as rich as “Memoirs of a Geisha,” this novel is a must-read for fans of poignant and emotionally charged literature.
Peony in Love
Lisa See’s “Peony in Love” is an emotionally charged novel set in seventeenth-century China. Peony lives a sheltered life in an elaborate villa on the shores of Hangzhou’s West Lake. During a theatrical performance in her family’s garden, she sees an elegant, handsome man and falls in love.
Peony’s journey of love, destiny, desire, sorrow, and the living world and the afterworld is unforgettable. Forced out of all she’s ever known, she’s hurled into a world where dreams are as lucid as reality. The novel evokes the past, where three generations of women become entangled in a dramatic story, uncover secrets and tragedies of the past, and learn that love can transcend death.
Based on actual historical events, “Peony in Love” is full of vivid descriptions of a time and place that remain profoundly moving. This novel will leave you yearning for all young women who long to be heard with their hearts and minds. With its beautiful prose and poignant themes of love, this book will undoubtedly stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it.
“Shanghai Girls” by Lisa See is a great novel set in Shanghai in 1937, a city of wealth, glamor, and patriots. Twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, live a carefree life thanks to their father’s prosperous rickshaw business. But one day, their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth, and they must travel to America to marry strangers to repay his debts.
As Japanese bombs drop on Shanghai, Pearl and May embark on a journey that takes them through the Chinese countryside and across the Pacific to Los Angeles, where they must navigate love, discrimination, and old traditions. Yet, through it all, “Shanghai Girls” remains a story of sisterhood, exploring the deep connections, petty jealousies, and rivalries between Pearl and May.
Lisa See’s poignant writing takes you through terrible sacrifices, impossible choices, and devastating secrets. Yet, through it all, Pearl and May hold fast to who they are, blossoming into strong, resilient “Shanghai girls.”
Dreams of Joy
Lisa See’s “Dreams of Joy” continues the story of Pearl and May, the sisters from “Shanghai Girls,” and Pearl’s strong-willed daughter, Joy. This book follows Joy as she runs away to Shanghai in search of her birth father, the artist Z.G. Li. Joy finds herself amidst the New Society of Red China and the Great Leap Forward, despite the dangers of the communist regime.
Meanwhile, Pearl is determined to save her daughter and embarks on a journey to find Joy, facing old demons and insurmountable challenges. But, as their paths converge, one of the tragic episodes in China’s history threatens their lives.
Once again, Lisa See delivers a captivating story full of richly drawn characters and vivid storytelling. “Dreams of Joy” explores important themes of family, resilience, and love in the face of tragedy and time. This novel is a must-read for anyone who enjoys emotionally charged, character-driven literature.
“Brilliantly blending emotion and information, “China Dolls” is a captivating page-turner that resonates with resilience and humanity.” Set in 1938 in San Francisco, the novel follows the lives of Grace, Helen, and Ruby, three young women from vastly different backgrounds. They meet by chance at the Forbidden City nightclub and become fast friends, relying on each other through unexpected challenges and shifting fortunes.
As their dark secrets are exposed, the girls must find the strength and resilience to reach their dreams. However, paranoia and suspicion threaten to destroy their lives after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. With a shocking act of betrayal changing everything, “China Dolls” delves into the power of friendship, secrets, and the strength of the human spirit.
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
Set in a remote mountain village, “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane” tells a powerful story about Li-yan and the family’s tea farming traditions. It is how their lives revolve around tea farming and ritual.
When a stranger appears at the village gate in a jeep, the first automobile any of the villagers has ever seen, Li-yan starts drifting away from the customs of her upbringing, which leads to a series of events that force Li-yan to leave her daughter, Haley, and move to the city.
As Haley grows up in America, she becomes curious about her birth mother and the mysteries of her origins. Lisa See’s remarkable storytelling beautifully captures the complex and enduring connection between mothers and daughters. The novel unravels the interwoven themes of family, culture, tradition, and identity and how they shape our lives.
The vivid portrayal of the little-known region of China, its people, and its traditions gives us an unforgettable portrait. In short, “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane” will leave you captivated and in awe of Lisa See’s mastery as a writer.
The Island of Sea Women
“The Island of Sea Women” by Lisa See follows the story of two girls, Mi-ja, and Young-sook, who grew up on a Korean island called Jeju. The girls became best friends despite their different backgrounds and started working for their village’s all-female diving collective.
Over the years, Mi-ja and Young-sook faced the challenges of Japanese colonialism in the 1930s and 1940s and, later, the era of cell phones and wetsuits for women divers. As the political unrest of war surrounded them, their friendship was put to the test.
The novel describes an evocative portrayal of a strong and spirited community of female divers and the island’s culture. It’s a tribute to the enduring bonds of female friendship and the power of forgiveness in the face of adversity.
Lady Tan’s Circle of Women
Lisa See’s captivating story centers on Tan Yunxian, a woman who defied Confucius’ belief that educated women were worthless. Raised by her grandmother, a rare female doctor in China, Yunxian learned the Four Examinations of Chinese medicine, which male doctors couldn’t perform on female patients.
She and her friend Meiling, a midwife-in-training, bonded over their shared purpose to help women. However, when Yunxian entered an arranged marriage, she was forbidden from practicing medicine. Despite these challenges, Yunxian treated women from all walks of life, leaving a legacy with remedies still used today.
Lisa See’s Lady Tan’s Circle of Women is an inspiring tale of women supporting each other and overcoming societal barriers.
Here is a list of Lisa See’s books sorted by genre:
- Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
- Peony in Love
- Shanghai Girls
- Dreams of Joy
- China Dolls
- The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
- The Island of Sea Women
Diving into Lisa See’s books by publication date and genre offers a unique journey through Chinese history, culture, and female strength. Tracing the evolution of her storytelling and characters, you can fully appreciate Lisa See’s literary expertise and the dynamic worlds she creates in each of her captivating novels.
What is Lisa See’s best book?
One of Lisa See’s most famous and critically acclaimed novels is “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.”
What is Lisa’s latest book?
Lisa See’s latest book is “The Island of Sea Women,” published in 2019.
What kind of books does Lisa See write?
Lisa See primarily writes historical fiction novels that explore Chinese and Asian culture, history, and women’s experiences.
Is China Dolls Based on a true story?
“China Dolls” drew partial inspiration from the real-life story of Midi Takaoka, a member of the Taka Sisters’ vaudeville act. Tragically, at just 22 years old, Midi was murdered in a love triangle in 1936.
Are Lisa See’s novels suitable for all age groups?
While Lisa See’s novels primarily cater to adult readers due to their historical themes, cultural depth, and occasional mature content, they may also be suitable for older teenagers interested in historical fiction and Chinese culture.
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