#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
In her most powerful novel yet, acclaimed author Lisa See returns
to the story of sisters Pearl and May from Shanghai Girls,
and Pearl's strong-willed nineteen-year-old daughter, Joy. Reeling
from newly uncovered family secrets, Joy runs away to Shanghai in
early 1957 to find her birth father-the artist Z.G. Li, with whom
both May and Pearl were once in love. Dazzled by him, and blinded
by idealism and defiance, Joy throws herself into the New Society
of Red China, heedless of the dangers in the Communist regime.
Devastated by Joy's flight and terrified for her safety, Pearl is
determined to save her daughter, no matter the personal cost. From
the crowded city to remote villages, Pearl confronts old demons and
almost insurmountable challenges as she follows Joy, hoping for
reconciliation. Yet even as Joy's and Pearl's separate journeys
converge, one of the most tragic episodes in China's history
threatens their very lives.
1. Joy is frequently described in terms of her Tiger
astrological sign. In Dreams of Joy, where do you see her acting
true to her Tiger nature? Where do you see her acting
2. Many of us grew up believing that the People's Republic of
China was "closed," and that it remained that way until President
Nixon "opened" it. Certainly Pearl (and even Joy, to a great
extent) go to China with preconceived ideas of what they'll see and
experience. In what ways are they right-or wrong?
3. Does seeing the world through Joy's eyes help you to understand
Pearl? Similarly, does Pearl give insights into her daughter?
4. The novel's title, Dreams of Joy, has many meanings. What does
the phrase mean to the different characters in the novel? To Lisa?
To the reader?
5. In many ways Dreams of Joy is a traditional coming-of-age novel
for Joy. Lisa has said that she believes it's also a coming-of-age
novel for Pearl and May. Do you agree? If so, how do these three
characters grow up? Do they find their happy endings?
6. Although May plays a key role in Dreams of Joy, she is always
off stage. How do you feel about this? Would you rather have May be
an onstage figure in this novel?
7. Pearl has some pretty strong views about motherhood. At one
point she asks, "What tactic do we, as mothers, use with our
children when we know they're going to make, or have already made,
a terrible mistake? We accept blame" (page 139). Later, she
observes, "Like all mothers, I needed to hide my sadness, anger,
and grief " (page 177). Do you agree with her? Does her attitude
about mothering change during the course of the novel?
8. Joy's initial perception of China is largely a projection of
her youthful idealism. What are the key scenes that force her to
adjust her beliefs and her feelings in this regard?
9. Describe the roles that Tao, Ta-ming, Kumei, and Yong play in
Dreams of Joy. Why are they so important, thematically, to the
10. Food-or the severe lack of it-are of critical importance in
Dreams of Joy. How does food affect Joy's growth as a person?
11. Let's consider the men-whether present in the novel as living
characters or not-for a moment. What influence do Sam, Z.G.,
Pearl's father, Dun, and Tao have on the story? How do they show
men at their best and worst? Are any of these characters completely
good-or completely bad?
12. Dreams of Joy is largely a novel about mothers and daughters,
but it's also about fathers and daughters. How do Joy's feelings
toward Sam and Z.G. change over the course of the novel? Does
Pearl's attitude toward her father change in any way?
13. There are several moments in the novel when people have to
choose the moral or ethical thing to do. Where are those places?
What purpose do they play? And why do you think Lisa choose to
14. Z.G. quotes a seventeenth-century artist when he says, "Art is
the heartbeat of the artist." How has this idea influenced his
life? What impact does this concept have on Joy?
15. Ultimately, Dreams of Joy is about "mother love"-the love that
Pearl feels for Joy, Joy feels for her mother, Joy experiences with
the birth of her daughter, and the ongoing struggle between Pearl
and May over who is Joy's true mother. In what ways do secrets,
disappointments, fears, and overwhelming love affect mother love in
Devastated after discovering the shocking truth about her mother and father, Joy (from See's bestselling "Shanghai Girls") flees to China to find a new life (and her real father)--and Pearl, realizing what has happened, sets out for Mao's China, resolved to find her daughter. A #1 "New York Times" bestseller.