Geishas, Wives, and Concubines

Intrigued by the lives of women in the Far East? Try these tales spanning from the 11th century to the present day, featuring the professional geisha--trained in the arts of conversation, music, and dance for the entertainment of men, and the wives and concubines of the powerful and wealthy.

Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet

By Xinran

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"Shu Wen and her husband had been married for only a few months in the 1950s when he joined the Chinese army and was sent to Tibet for the purpose of unification of the two countries. Shortly after he left she was notified that he had been killed, although no details were given. Determined to find the truth, Shu Wen joined a militia unit going to the Tibetan north, where she soon was separated from the regiment.

"Without supplies and knowledge of the language, she wandered, trying to find her way until, on the brink of death, she was rescued by a family of nomads under whose protection she moved from place to place with the seasons and eventually came to discover the details of her husband’s death. … Xinran has recreated Shu Wen’s journey, writing beautifully and simply of the silence and the emptiness in which Shu Wen was enveloped. The book is an extraordinary portrait of a woman and a land, each at the mercy of fate and politics. It is an unforgettable, ultimately uplifting tale of love loss, loyalty, and survival."

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The Joy Luck Club

By Amy Tan

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In 1949 four Chinese women drawn together by the shadow of their past begin meeting in San Francisco to play mah jong, invest in stocks, eat dim sum, and 'say' stories. They call their gathering the Joy Luck Club.

On Film:
Originally released in 1993,this film adaptation is full of vibrant characters.

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My Father's Geisha

By James Gordon Bennett

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"This fresh, poignant first novel features two siblings who will capture readers's hearts in the manner of Salinger's Franny and Zooey. Army brats Teddy and Cora are constantly on the move from base to base with their warring parents. With their edgy intelligence and precocious charm, this duo jumps off the page and pulls readers into their hearts."

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Fox Girl

By Nora Okja Keller

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Set in the aftermath of the Korean War, Fox Girl is the story of its forgotten victims, the abandoned children of American GIs who live in a world where life is about survival.

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Pearl of China, a Novel

By Anchee Min

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In the small southern town of Chin-kiang, in the last days of the nineteenth century, young Willow and young Pearl S. Buck, the headstrong daughter of zealous Christian missionaries, bump heads and embark on a friendship that will sustain both of them through one of the most tumultuous periods in Chinese history.
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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

By Lisa See

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In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, or "old same," in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The two women exchange messages written on silk fans and handkerchieves using nu shu, a unique language that women created in order to communicate in secret, sharing their experiences, but when a misunderstanding arises, their friendship threatens to tear apart.

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The Snow Fox

By Susan Fromberg Schaeffer

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"...a sweeping novel about three characters in medieval Japan: Lord Norimasa, whose highest love is to reunify his country and restore peace; Lady Utsu, one of the supreme poetic geniuses of her time, as famous for her cruelty as for her beauty; and Matsuhito, a samurai who apprentices himself to Lord Norimasa. When Matsuhito and Lady Utsu fall hopelessly in love, the lives of these three are forever changed. Separated for years by warfare, Matsuhito and Lady Utsu reunite but their joy is shadowed by the cruelties and the caprices of passing time."

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Shinju

By Laura Joh Rowland

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"When beautiful, wealthy Yukiko and low-born artist Noriyoshi are found drowned together in a shinju, or ritual double suicide, everyone believes the culprit was forbidden love. Everyone but newly appointed yoriki Sano Ichiro.

"Despite the official verdict and warnings from his superiors, the shogun's Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People suspects the deaths weren't just a tragedy -- they were murder. Risking his family's good name and his own life, Sano will search for a killer across every level of society -- determined to find answers to a mystery no one wants solved. No one but Sano..."

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Spring Moon: A Novel of China

By Bette Bao Lord

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"At a time of mystery and cruelty ... in an ancient land of breathtaking beauty and exotic surprise ... a courageous woman triumphs over her world's ultimate tragedy. Behind the garden walls of the House of Chang, pampered daughter Spring Moon is born into luxury and privilege. But the tempests of change sweep her into a new world -- one of hardship, turmoil, and heartbreak, one that threatens to destroy her husband, her family, and her darkest secret love. Through a tumultuous lifetime, Spring Moon must cling to her honor, to the memory of a time gone by, and to a destiny, foretold at her birth, that has yet to be fulfilled."
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Sexual Occupation of Japan

By Richard Setlowe

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"Attorney Peter Saxon arrives in Tokyo to secretly negotiate an historic merger between a Japanese electronics giant and an American movie and media conglomerate, a multibillion-dollar marriage that will dominate communications in the next century. But before the talks even begin, the government official with whom he is to meet is gruesomely murdered and mutilated. Then Saxon himself becomes the target of strange, vicious attacks.

"Searching for answers and trapped by a wall of polite, steeled silence, Saxon is forced to probe the heartwrenching memories of his youth--the shards of a past that neither time nor distance have buried. As a young Navy pilot operating from Japan during the Vietnam War, Saxon became passionately involved with a Japanese nightclub hostess named Lilli, an enchanting young woman with a dark, painful past. Their relationship created numerous enemies."

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