Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
ABOUT THE BOOK
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan takes readers to nineteenth-century China to explore a complex friendship between two women. Lily is the daughter of a farmer in Puwei Village, and Snow Flower is the daughter of a respectable family from Tongkou, and though the two girls have very different backgrounds, Madame Wang pairs the two as laotong, or "old sames," a bond that will last them a lifetime.
Lisa See is the author of the non-fiction family history On Gold Mountain: The One Hundred Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family and the novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. See, who is one-eighth Chinese, grew up in Los Angeles surrounded by her Chinese-American family. After an early career writing for Publishers Weekly and other magazines, See published her first book, On Gold Mountain, in 1995. The story is a sweeping account of her father's side of the family as it moved from China to southern California. The book was a success, and See followed up with three mystery novels set in China: Flower Net (1997), The Interior (1999) and Dragon BonesSnow Flower and the Secret Fan (2003). Her fourth novel was the critically acclaimed bestseller (2005), the story of two women in 19th century China who communicate through a secret written language called “nu shu.”
Compiled by Wayne Pricer, Schoolcraft College Librarian
Questions from Lisa See’s Official Website:
1. Lily endures excruciating pain in order to have her feet bound. What reasons are given for this dangerous practice?
2. Did See's descriptions of footbinding remind you of any Western traditions?
3. If some men in 19th-century China knew about “nu shu” and “old same” friendships, why do you think they allowed these traditions to persist?
4. Reflecting on her first few decades, Lily seems to think her friendship with Snow Flower brought her more good than harm. Do you agree?
5. Lily's adherence to social customs can seem controversial to us today. Pick a scene where you would have acted differently. Why?
6. Lily defies the wishes of her son in order to pair her grandson with Peony. Does she fully justify her behavior?
7. Lily sometimes pulls us out of the present moment to reflect--as an old woman--on her youthful decisions. What does this device add to the story?
8. How would you film these moments of reflection?
9. If Lily is writing her story to Snow Flower in the afterworld, what do you think Snow Flower's response would or should be?
10. Did you recognize any aspects of your own friendships in the bond between Lily and Snow Flower?
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE BOOK?