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Roseville readers turn out for talk

By: Eileen Wilson Special to the Press-Tribune
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It was a full house Saturday as book lovers and book club members alike vied for seats to hear popular author Lisa See speak about her book, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, at the Martha Riley Community Library. Part of the Roseville Reads, One Book, One Community program, See's New York Times best-selling novel was selected as the fourth annual book club choice for community members to read and discuss. Gina Garbolino, mayor pro tem of Roseville, is a supporter of Roseville Reads and of the library. We choose socially relevant books to encourage reading and connect people, she said when she introduced the author to the mostly female crowd of about 100. This is the first Roseville Reads author to visit our group “ I hope with this much success and involvement, we'll have many more, Garbolino said. See, who lives in Los Angeles but has roots in Sacramento, explained details of her novel to eager listeners, who wanted to learn more about the novel, which is set in China during the 19th century. Of particular interest to many book enthusiasts was the nu shu, or secret language by and for women that has existed in China for more than 1,000 years. See, who is of Chinese ancestry herself, became obsessed with the subject of nu shu years ago, and after failed attempts to find documentation about the language at UCLA's research library, she decided to go to villages in China and gather her research first hand. It was like stepping back 100, even 200 years in time. There were no boats, no airports, no trains, she said. She simply walked from village to village. I got to meet the oldest living nu shu writer. She was 96 and died three months after I met her. She had bound feet and talked in great detail about the foot-binding process, See said. See explained that once women's feet are bound, which is the process of tightly wrapping a young girl's toes underneath her heel until the bones ultimately break, the women live a life strictly indoors. The only thing that really bothered me was the foot binding, said Jana Savage of Lincoln, in response to the book, although she enjoyed it overall. A lot of women in our book club have read it as well. It was a very enlightening book, said Joyce Emanuel of Roseville. From a cultural standpoint, it really pinpointed how Chinese women were put into a very tiny world. See, who said she has always been intrigued by stories or facts that few people know, wants more people to realize women's contributions in the past. So often what women did in history was lost, forgotten, or intentionally covered up, she said. When I started writing ˜Snow Flower and the Secret Fan,' I thought no one was going to read it, she said. As I was writing this book, knowing no one was going to read it, it freed me up to write about a true and deep friendship, including the shadowy side as well. We've all experienced being a Lily or a Snowflower “ dropping a friend, or being the friend who is dropped. See's most recent novel, Peony in Love, is available in local bookstores and libraries as her other books, which include nonfiction and a mystery series. For more information visit www.lisasee.com.