According to author and Fairfield University professor Da Chen, Lisa See is “the international rockstar of world literature.”

When See took her stand in the Oak Room on Feb. 21, the crowd, previously abuzz about themes of strong women and complicated relationships, silenced as though awaiting the opening chord of their favorite song.

See finds inspiration from not only her personal history – the topic of 1995’s “On Gold Mountain” – but also experiences and emotions common to all humans. “History affects ordinary people,” See said. Her interest comes in reviving “stories lost, forgotten, or deliberately covered up.”

“I love the accuracy of the information about the women and their strengths,” says Chelsea Mingrone ’14, an Asian Studies major.

Jack O’Meara ’15 shares an interest in the “historical accuracy” of See’s work, while Charles DeFilippo’ 15 savors the “dynamic changes and surprises.”

See’s newest novel attempts to unpack the complications of hidden history. “Dreams of Joy,” which debuted at number 1 on the New York Times Best Seller’s List, is set in 1950s China, reeling in response to the Great Leap Forward, a program instituted by Mao Zedong that resulted in devastating famine.

More than 45 million people starved to death within only three years as a result.  See visited China with Amy Tan, author of “The Joy Luck Club,” and learned through interaction with people that many continued to believe the famine to be “three years of bad weather.”

“Dreams of Joy” grows too, from the root of the mother-daughter relationship. The Chinese character for mother-love, See explained, originates in the words for pain and love. “Real life happens,” See said. “What do you do as a mother? You listen, because there’s nothing we can do except carry their pain in our hearts.”

Historical complexities interwoven with the ascents and demises of relationships are the hallmarks that keep See’s readers engaged, enamored and often, tearing up.

“I know the books are sad,” See apologized, relaying fervent email correspondence with readers who often find themselves in precarious circumstances – whether on vacation or in bed – weeping at See’s words.

“At the end of Dreams of Joy, I hope you’ll be in tears of happiness of the triumph of goodness, joy and grace,” she concluded.

See is currently deep in research for her next novel, which will explore Chinese nightclubs in the United States in the 1930s.

There is no doubt that See has the ability to captivate and move an audience into not only believable circumstances, but tangible emotional rigors.

See seems to be more than content that the past may not be perfectly peaceful, for whatever it held, it has provided her with material for her stories and success, and has led to this moment, a rockstar of an author dashing between the aisles of chairs set in the Oak Room with a smile of humility and joy, distributing books to her audience.

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