Around the Island

‘Twenty Years in a Changing China’

COURTESY PHOTO | Historic photo of Lisa See's family.
COURTESY PHOTO | Historic photo of Lisa See’s family.

Lisa See, whose latest novel is “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane,” and Peter Lighte, Island resident, author, expert sinologist, and founding member of the international NGO OneSky, will come to the Shelter Island Library on Thursday, September 14 at 6 p.m. to present “Twenty Years in a Changing China.” They will speak about their work and their respective experiences in and with China and its culture.

Ms. See, a bestselling author, was born in Paris in 1955 but she has spent many years in Chinatown in Los Angeles. The daughter of  Carolyn See, who is also a writer and novelist, Ms. See was the West Coast correspondent for Publishers Weekly from 1983 to 1996 and has written articles for Self, Vogue, and More. She wrote the libretto for the opera based on one of her books, “On Gold Mountain.” Her exhibition, “On Gold Mountain, a Chinese American Experience” was featured in the Autry Museum of Western Heritage and the Smithsonian.


Ms. See’s paternal great-grandfather, Fong See, was Chinese, which has had great impact on her work and life. Fong See overcame many hardships to become the godfather of Los Angeles’ Chinatown and patriarch of a sprawling family. Ms. See has written about and led many cultural events emphasizing the importance of the Chinatown culture in Los Angeles. She has won awards for her social work involving Chinese American women and history makers and serves as a Los Angeles city commissioner.

Her books include “On Gold Mountain” (1995), “Flower Net” (1997), “The Interior” (1999), “Dragon Bones” (2003), “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” (2005), “Peony in Love” (2007), “Shanghai Girls” (2009), “Dreams of Joy” (2011), “China Dolls” (2015), and “Tea Girls of Hummingbird Lane” (2017).

Peter Lighte has lived through many of the changes in China firsthand. He will compliment See’s discussion of her novels by sharing his personal and professional experience living and working in Beijing and Hong Kong as a banker. The father of two adopted Chinese daughters with his husband, he is a founding member of OneSky, which is a particular passion for him. The organization was created in 1998 by Jenny Bowen, also an adoptive parent of two Chinese girls. Ms. Bowen’s vision was to bring love of family and early childhood education to the children of China’s orphanages. After working 20 years on this vision, OneSky’s approach has become China’s national standard for the care of institutionalized children.

Mr. Ligthe is the author of “Pieces of China,” “Host of Memories: Tales of Inevitable Happenstance” and a forthcoming book about the adoption of his daughters, “Quest for Fatherhood: The Privilege of a Lifetime.”

Please note this event is on Thursday, September 14 at 6  p.m.  It requires a reservation, easily made by stopping by the library. This should be a most entertaining and interesting evening. Sign up today to assure your spot or call the library at (631) 749-0042 for more details.

Submitted by Dave Roggie