Shanghai Quartet: The Crossings of Four Women of ChinaMin-Zhan Lu $24.95
Published in 2001 | 300 pages | paper | ISBN: 978-0-8207-0322-0
Steeped in the Chinese tradition of recording family tales and keeping the family register, Min-Zhan Lu gives us this moving and powerful memoir describing the lives of four women of China—her grandmother, her nanny, her mother, and herself. “I wrote these family stories hoping that you will someday want to read them,” she writes to her daughter in the book's opening lines. “I offer them to you as beginnings: notes on a lifeline of crossings for you to take over and work on.” The complex emotional landscape of this book centers around Min-Zhan Lu—both the immigrant who has crossed over to America and the tale-teller. In each of four sections, she tells us the intergenerational story of these women, each of whom crosses over time, history, custom and geography to come into her own. This overall frame is a vehicle for a woman trying to recite the family stories for her daughter—partly to heal the complex divisions between them, partly to understand her own past and how it has shaped her identity, partly as an act of the larger love she longs to represent, partly to sing the past into the future. But Shanghai Quartet, amazingly, is even more than such a vehicle for a mother-daughter dialogue and story. This book paints a less-than-familiar portrait of Chinese life in the last century. Here, as we come to know Min-Zhan Lu's family, we find credible lives, not propaganda or stereotypes. We see so much: a Chinese Catholic family in Shanghai; the events of the Cultural Revolution through a child's family experiences; the decision to come to America and be separated from family; and the next, postmodern generation of young Chinese abroad.
MIN-ZHAN LU is professor of English at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. She has published work on the composing of personal narratives, pedagogy and teaching nontraditional students. One of her essays was the recipient of the national Mina P. Shaughnessy Award. She makes her home in both Milwaukee and Guemes Island, Washington.