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Snow Flower and The Secret Fan: Sitting Quietly and Daughter Days April 5, 2007

Posted by Han in Snow Flower and The Secret Fan by Lisa See.
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These seemed like short sections so I broke it up into the larger section.  Here is where you can discuss the first part of the book.

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1. Michelle - April 5, 2007

I’m so glad you included so many chapters in this posting. I usually allow myself to read only to the point we are discussing – so I can remember and deliniate my thoughts, however, I was unable to put this book down once I started it. I was afraid I’d gotten too far ahead but it was perfect. 🙂

I was absolutely intrigued by the footbinding chapter. The New York Times had an article or two on this topic a few weeks ago. There are a few ladies left alive with bound feet. They are so proud of their Golden Lilly’s. Man- the pain!! I don’t see how men could be turned on by the deformity. And that women would do it?? Of course, women have partipated (and still do) in quite a bit of craziness over the years and across the world to make themselves alluring to men.

I seem to be reading a lot of books lately about women in different cultures. It’s so interesting to consider the many opportunities we have as women now… and remember that what we now consider an entitlement is so recently and geographically even an option. Many women – and humans – are still oppressed by social, political, and cultural structures.

Yet, as oppressed as these women were/are, they still have their domaine, womens chamber, friendships, and language. The traditions are simply lovely.

I must admit, I’m kinda sad that the nu shu language was discovered a few years ago. I want the women to keep their secret language secret.

And oh how I want to try the burnt-sugar taro. It sounds delightful.

2. Jennifer Napier - April 6, 2007

I had to do a report in school as a kid on foot-binding but I think I was too young to understand. This book really was detailed and specific… wow, so painful. I liked this book so much I started reading some other books by this author and other Chinese literature. Am about to pick up a biography on Mao. Anyway, I need to find the book so I can offer the quotes and themes I found interesting. Right now I’m just speaking off the top of my head.

3. bethany3boys - April 7, 2007

Okay I am a visual person and just was trying to imagine what their feet actually ended up looking like. So I googled and found this picture of what bound feet end up like. Click through to the link below

http://news.yahoo.com/photo/070317/photos_lf_afp/5d2ea3b8eb043fa6c2451b033903457f

There are also some pics on the web of foot binding gone wrong that are pretty scary. YUCK!!! It is amazing that people thought this was beautiful. Although our society thinks big fake boobs and botox faces are beautiful and I think that is pretty freaky looking too.

I thought the part where Third Sister died was so sad. They basically killed her!! And then because she was just a child she was not mourned in the same way as Grandma. It was all just so sad to me. On the flip side I do enjoy like you Michelle all the friendships and womens chamber parts. The whole talk about future marriage and how they lose their daughters basically is so sad and yet you can tell they love each other and thus the nu shu language is their secret way to stay in touch over the years. I cannot imagine getting married and never speaking to my sisters or seeing them. It is interesting to how in the Chinese culture everything revolves around the husbands family…doesn’t seem like those guys are leaving and cleaving too much. HEE HEE. What a contrast to our culture where yes both families usually are cherished and loved but where wives seem to hold onto a special bond with their mothers.

4. Sara - April 8, 2007

Isn’t it interesting that the family members really do not have names, or that their names aren’t mentioned. Like older sister, third sister, oldest brother. And the names of the people that are mentioned.
Snow Flower, Beautiful Moon, Madame Goa, and Madame Wang.

I tried to imagine knowing that when you are born that you are not valuable to your family, maybe even a burden. An interesting quote is in the first chapter, “For my entire life I longed for love. I knew it was not right for me-as a girl and later as a woman-to want or expect it, but I did, and this unjustified desire has been at the root or every problem I have experienced in my life” (page 3) Isn’t this still a problem in China little girls not being as valuable and being abandoned?

5. Michelle - April 8, 2007

Good point Sara. I have a feeling the desire to be loved is going to be key in the whole of the story.

6. bethany3boys - April 9, 2007

Great quote Sara. That was interesting that her family was un-named as far as the book goes at least.

7. bethany3boys - April 9, 2007

Hey Jennifer have you liked any other books by Lisa See? I heard she had one coming out this year called Peony In Love…I think it is comes out the end of June.

8. heather - April 13, 2007

The whole lack of names thing made me think of a local orphan and adoption ministry run by some members of my parents’ church. It is called “Mei-Ming Ministries”, with Mei Ming meaning “No Name.” Apparently, that is the “name” given to many Chinese girls who are left at orphanages.

9. bethany3boys - April 13, 2007

That is really interesting Heather.

10. bethany3boys - April 13, 2007

In the first few pages she was talking about Mother love and how in the men’s writing it is composed of two characters one means pain the second means love and that is Mother’s love. Being a mom I can totally relate to that….not just the childbearing pain as she mentions but that pain of the heart, mind a soul. I think until I had my own kids I never understood how much I could love or that protective momma bear love…the love that I know I would lay down my life for my kids. A love that could cause me pain or worry etc etc.

11. bethany3boys - April 13, 2007

I also really liked the part where she meets Snow Flower for the first time she has such a spunky personality…love it.

12. heather - April 14, 2007

I think I read that whole Pain-Love/Mother’s Love thing a totally different way. I wasn’t looking at it as the Mother being the one feeling the pain, but instead as the Mother inflicting pain as a way of showing her love. Initially I found the whole idea of “pain-love” to be a difficult concept to relate to, I think because in this novel, that pain is physical pain — foot-bindings and beatings, for example. I guess it’s just hard to remove my 21st Century – American glasses! When you can separate the two cultures, though, and really try to understand how important “face” and outward appearance is to their culture, you can more readily appreciate Lily’s mother’s actions. As an old woman, Lily sees how the physical pain she endured at the hands of her mother was teaching her endurance. And not just physical endurance (footbindings, childbirth, etc.), but emotional endurance. I guess it’s at that level — wanting to develop the character quality of endurance in her daughters, that I can relate.

In the very first part she alludes to her footbinding being symbolic of her character, and it sure sets this up as a sad story: “The binding altered not only my feet but my whole character, and in a strange way I feel as though that process continued throughout my life, changing me from a yielding child to a determined girl, then from a young woman who would follow without question whatever her in-laws demanded of her to the highest-ranked woman in the county who enforced strict village rules and customs. By the time I was forty, the rigidity of my footbinding had moved from my golden lilies to my heart, which held on to injustices and grievances so strongly that I could no longer forgive those I loved and who loved me.” p. 4 Knowing this beforehand, it made that section where the young girls waded in the mud so much more poignant: “Seventy five years have gone by, and I still remember the feel of the mud between my toes, the rush of water over my feet, the cold against my skin. Beautiful Moon and I were free in a way that we would never be again.” p. 15

13. bethany3boys - April 15, 2007

Heather you are right in terms of the book definition of motherhood, I just found the whole definition interesting in light of Motherhood via my experience.


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