An Un-Calibrated Centrifuge

My dad once said to me, "You give a lot of books three stars." I do.

Shanghai Girls

Shanghai Girls - Lisa See

I didn't really read this book. I got about 10 pages in before I started thinking about Lisa See.


She's mostly white and she's 1/8 Chinese. I wanted to see if she ever discusses her white privilege and shocker there's nothing out there that I can find where she does. Just some things about how she feels Chinese in her heart and her kids eat rice when they're sad (...what?).


This post sums up my thoughts on that pretty well. I'm all for people self identifying, but I really hate when white-passing mixed people act like white-passing is such a burden or simply try to ignore the fact that they are white-passing.


I'm pretty turned off by what I did (and didn't) learn about Lisa See, so I'm going to round up all her books I own and give them away ASAP.




" What makes you Chinese? Is it how you look, how you feel inside, how you raise your children? Most people don’t have to answer this type of question, but because I don’t look Chinese, I do."


I get that being Chinese can get complicated, but most people do have an answer to this question. Being Chinese isn't some mysterious inscrutable thing. Like, I have ancestors from China. I'm Chinese. Boom.


"In Los Angeles Chinatown, people know me, but when I go to other Chinese communities or to China, people see me as an outsider. When I go into the larger white community here in the U.S., people look at me and talk to me as though I belong, but inside I often feel very foreign. I don’t like their bigotry and racism. In both worlds, I’m a bit outside. I think this has made me a better— and certainly more interesting—writer, because it really makes me look and feel."


White-passing people think their experiences of race are so unique, but new flash they're not. These feelings of alienation and not belonging anywhere are pretty ubiquitous in mixed people, white-passing or not. Lisa See is not special.


Then there's this gem.


"Even in my own family, there were times when I would be interviewing someone and they'd say, 'Remember so-and-so? He was Caucasian, just like you.' And I'd think, 'Why are you thinking of me that way? You've known me my whole life; I'm not like that.' Now that the book's done, I think that they accept me as being Chinese like them."


Does this woman lack all self-awareness? I would like Lisa See a lot better if she didn't completely ignore the fact that she's also white (and that the world treats her like she's white and that gives her privileges over most of her Chinese relatives/all non-passing Chinese people and that white privilege could be used for good but instead she just insists people should call her Chinese over and over again.)