Faith in Book: Shanghai Girls


Shanghai Girls

By Lisa See

From See’s website: In 1937, Shanghai is the Paris of Asia, full of great wealth and glamour, home to millionaires and beggars, gangsters and gamblers, patriots and revolutionaries, artists and warlords. Twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister May are having the time of their lives, thanks to the financial security and material comforts provided by their father’s prosperous rickshaw business. Though both wave off authority and traditions, they couldn’t be more different. Pearl is a Dragon sign, strong and stubborn, while May is a true Sheep, adorable and placid. Both are beautiful, modern, and living the carefree life … until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth, and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides.

I did not enjoy this book for several reasons. It has a horrible scenes of sexual assault and other violence, seems to be filled with hopeless images and hopeless characters and ends with a cliffhanger. But I don’t even think there will be another book. I think that is the way that See wanted it to end. The book does give a glimpse of the lives of Chinese immigrants from the turn of the century to the cold war as well as a look at life in pre-communist China.

What did this book have to do with my faith? Pearl goes back and forth from believing in one God to embracing her ancestral worship/following the Chinese zodiac to a mix of the two. This made me think: how much of our own faith is truly apart from our culture? Even the Bible was not written in a vacuum. Being filled with the Holy Spirit does not remove one completely from the time and place and culture one resides. Then, take what was written down and look how many times it is translated by persons from different cultures. Even words and their meanings can change over time. How much of our faith has been influenced by culture? Something to think about.

I do not recommend this book unless you enjoy a fictionalized history of world/ US culture.

Happy reading!


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