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Author Lisa See and the 'Dreams of Joy'

Author Lisa See and the 'Dreams of Joy'
Author Lisa See and the 'Dreams of Joy'

FAITH LAPIDUS: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I'm Faith Lapidus. On our program this week, we play songs from some of Broadway’s top musicals …

We tell about a training program that is helping immigrants find employment …

But first we talk to Chinese-American writer Lisa See about her new book.


Lisa See “Dreams of Joy”

FAITH LAPIDUS: The writer Lisa See takes readers on a trip across the Pacific Ocean in her latest book, “Dreams of Joy.” It continues the story of two Chinese sisters who readers met in See’s novel, “Shanghai Girls.” In that book, Pearl and May escaped the Japanese occupation of Shanghai in the nineteen thirties. The sisters fled to California.

In “Dreams of Joy,” Pearl is forced to return to Shanghai on a search for her daughter. Bob Doughty has more about the new novel and the writer.

BOB DOUGHTY: “Dreams of Joy” takes place in the nineteen fifties. Pearl’s nineteen year old daughter, Joy, is angry at her mother and her Aunt May. So she runs away to China to find the father she has never met. She not only finds him but becomes involved with the changes taking place in the country. Lisa See says this situation was not uncommon at the time. She says many young Chinese were sympathetic to the country’s new government.

LISA SEE: “Actually, there were a lot of Chinese going back to the People’s Republic of China at that time, ninety thousand in one year from Fukien province alone. But also a lot of other people who weren’t Chinese, who were going to China kind of inspired by what was going on there, or even hoping to start a business.”

Once in mainland China, however, it was not easy to leave. Some who returned, Chinese and foreigners, became victims of political unrest. In the late nineteen fifties, China’s government ordered major changes that caused economic problems.

Here, from “Dreams of Joy,” the character Pearl describes the moment she finds her daughter.

Author Lisa See and the 'Dreams of Joy'
Author Lisa See and the 'Dreams of Joy'

READER: “Her delicate eyebrows, pretty nose and full lips register absolute astonishment at seeing me. Her eyes widen and become even brighter. Then I see not happiness, sadness or even anger that I’m here. It’s worse than any of those. The cool shadows of indifference fall over her features. She stares at me but doesn’t say a word.”

Lisa See has written several best-selling novels about Chinese-related subjects. She says those themes have special appeal for her.

LISA SEE: “I’m part Chinese. But I have red hair and freckles so I don’t look very Chinese, but I did grow up in a very traditional Chinese American family. I live in Los Angeles and today, in Los Angeles, I have about four hundred relatives, of which the majority of them are still full Chinese and there there’s this spectrum with me on one end – there are about a dozen that look like me – but then, sort of, this spectrum all the way up to the majority being full Chinese.”

She says she is also part Irish. Like most Americans, she celebrates her ethnicities.

LISA SEE: “I think all of us here in the United States, we all had someone in our families who was brave enough, scared enough, dumb enough, crazy enough to leave their home country to come here. But there is still a part of us that is tied to our original homeland and we all share in that feeling no matter where you came from.”

Lisa See is already at work on her next book. It deals with Chinese American culture from the first half of the twentieth century. And one of her books has already made it to Hollywood. “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” will be released in movie theaters across America on July fifteenth.

Goodwill’s Job Training Program

FAITH LAPIDUS: Many Americans donate clothes, furniture and small goods to Goodwill Industries. The nonprofit group then sells them at low prices at its stores across the United States and in other countries. Money from those sales is used to provide job training for poor people and the disabled. In America, Goodwill also offers special training for immigrants. Barbara Klein has more.

BARBARA KLEIN: Yafet Deferesu from Ethiopia and Perline Rasoanoromalala from Madagascar are working on their resumes. Employers seeking workers usually ask for a copy of a resume. It gives details of the person’s educational and employment history, plus other information.

Ms. Rasoanoromalala came to the United States six months ago on a work visa. Mr. Deferesu has been in the country for thirty years. But he has trouble getting a job because he is blind in one eye and has other disabilities.

Yafet Deferesu from Ethiopia and Perline Rasoanoromalala from Madagascar working on their resumes
Yafet Deferesu from Ethiopia and Perline Rasoanoromalala from Madagascar working on their resumes

Both immigrants recently completed a three-week long, career enhancement program at Goodwill. Each hopes the experience will help them find work in a very competitive job market. Perline Rasoanoromalala praises the organization.

PERLINE RASOANOROMALALA: “Goodwill is a good support for us job seekers and also for immigrants to help us to understand how does it work here in the U.S.”

Yafet Deferesu feels the same.

YAFET DEFERESU: “Every day I come here, and every energy I see here is so positive that it promotes what I want to accomplish and finding a job.”

Ms. Rasoanoromalala has a college degree. She formerly worked for an American development organization in Madagascar. She would like to work for another here.

Mister Deferesu has not held a job in several years. He wants to keep financial records for a company.

They both received training at a Goodwill center in Arlington, Virginia. They learned how to discuss a job opening with a possible employer. They also learned ways to market their skills. The head of the training program, Lisa Bauer, says her students learn how to write a resume.

LISA BAUER: “Resumes are different throughout the world and here the employers really expect to see what that person has achieved, really almost asking somebody to boast about themselves, and in other countries, that’s not favored as a practice.”

Immigrants also learn that cultural differences may be misunderstood during job interviews. Behavior and body language can affect whether or not a job is offered.

PERLINE RASOANOROMALALA: “I did not know that crossing your arms is perceived a different way in the U.S. For us, it’s a sign of I’m listening carefully to you. Here maybe it’s a lack of openness.”

Goodwill has twenty-five hundred stores around the world. Most are in the United States and Canada. Jim Gibbons is the head of Goodwill Industries International. He says the organization helps trainees correctly measure their skills and abilities.

JIM GIBBONS: “What I think Goodwill does for the disabled and immigrants is to have high expectations, give the facts and then surround the individual with the tools and support for them to be successful.”

Perline Rasoanoromalala says that support is making her hopeful she will find a job soon.

PERLINE RASOANOROMALALA: “America is a land of opportunities, so I keep faith, and ‘cross my fingers’ as you say.”

Tony-Nominated Musicals

FAITH LAPIDUS: Actors, directors, playwrights and others will gather this Sunday at the Beacon Theater in New York City. Many in the crowd will be hoping to hear their names called for a Tony Award, the top honor for Broadway theater productions.

Four plays were nominated for best musical. One is “Catch Me If You Can,” a funny play about a likeable criminal.

(MUSIC: “Live, In Living Color”)

He tricks people into thinking he is a pilot during his run, or flight, from the law. The musical is based on a movie from two thousand two.

The musical “Sister Act” is also based on a movie. Whoopi Goldberg was the star of the nineteen ninety two movie. She is a producer of the Broadway musical.

Patina Miller and Marla Mindelle in "Sister Act"
Patina Miller and Marla Mindelle in "Sister Act"

The main character, Deloris, is placed in a witness protection program in a convent a center for Catholic religious workers. Here she sings “Take Me to Heaven.”


“The Book of Mormon” also deals with organized religion in a humorous way. It involves two young Mormons who are sent to a far away land to get more people to accept the Mormon religion as their own. The young men pray to be sent to Florida. In “Two By Two,” they find out where they really going.


A musical drama is the final nominee. “The Scottsboro Boys” is about the trial of nine African-American young men. They were falsely accused and found guilty of the rape of two white girls in the nineteen thirties.

(MUSIC “Commencing in Chattanooga”)

FAITH LAPIDUS: I’m Faith Lapidus. Our program was written and produced by Caty Weaver. Additional reporting was provided by Mike O’Sullivan and Deborah Block.

Join us again next week for music and more on AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.