Dreams of Joy

Read Yes
Length 354
Quick Review At 19, Joy finds out her family’s biggest secret. She runs away to find her father in her ancestral homeland of newly communist China. 



I have had the accident of unknowingly buying sequels without reading the first. Fortunately, they have not been dependent upon the first book, so I am not totally lost while reading.

I did this again with Dreams of Joy by Lisa See, which is a sequel to her book Shanghai Girls. Joy and May were young sisters in the first novel; now, they are middle aged women with a dark secret embodied in their daughter Joy.

Joy is an idealist nineteen year old born in Los Angeles to Chinese parents. She yearns to go to China to build a Republic based on equality. When she learns her mothers’ secret, she runs away to China to find her father, who happens to be a famous artist. Spending time in communes and in the upper echelons of society with her father, it takes time for her to fully see the true meaning of Red China. Pearl embarks on her own mission to bring her daughter home to America. She returns to China and Shanghai after more than two decades away. Bittersweet. Many things have changed, but many have stayed the same.

Dreams of Joy is told from two perspectives: Joy, the daughter, and Pearl, the mother. They have their own unique viewpoints and voices. Their voices and views fit their age and experience. Pearl’s voice comes across more naturally. Joy’s voice is more forced with a tendency toward explanation and immature phrasing. It feels like the author isn’t fully invested or understanding of the characters perspective or psyche.


See discusses many horrible aspects of Chinese culture during the early years of communist China. Foot binding had been outlawed for many years in China, but there were still women alive who had endured the experience during the early years of the government shift. Infanticide and more atrocities were common practices during the famine. The desire to have male children was a violent and sincere part of culture even when men and women were considered “equal” by the government. See has no qualms about jumping head first into the ugly sides of history in her novel.

I really enjoyed Dreams of Joy and suggest it to anyone looking to learn a little more about Eastern culture. It’s a story of motherly love, idealism, and harsh reality.

Memorable Quotes
“She’s so sure of herself, but anyone can be sure at nineteen.”
“Those who have little to lose don’t want to lose what little they have.”
“To lose a daughter is sad, they tell me. To lose a son is tragic.”
“Mao my day women hold up half the sky, but it is the lesser half.”
“That means all food must go to males first.”
“Fu Hsüan’s famous poem that begins, “How sad it is to be a woman! Nothing on Earth is held so cheap.””

Title: Dreams of Joy
Author: Lisa See
Publisher: Random House
Copyright: 2012
ISBN: 9780812980547



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