Lisa See, author of 2005’s critically acclaimed international bestseller “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan,” will be at the downtown Camden Opera House Tuesday, April 13 at 7 p.m. as part of the national book tour for her new novel, “Shanghai Girls.”

During A Conversation with Lisa See, the author will speak about her complete body of work, with a focus on her new book, and will entertain a dialogue with the audience in a question and answer format. She will be introduced by New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen, who lives in Camden and is a member of the Maine Literary Festival’s committee of advisors. A dessert reception and book signing will follow See’s presentation.

With her freckled complexion and bright red hair, See is just one-eighth Chinese but grew up in her very traditional, old Chinese family in Chinatown, Los Angeles, and strongly relates to that background. The experience of growing up in Chinatown has completely informed her life and her life’s work, as she writes about her heritage both in fiction and in non-fiction.

“The Chinese side of my family in Los Angeles numbers close to 400, and a just handful look like me. It’s been 130 years since my great-great-grandfather left China [as an illiterate peasant], and we’ve become educated, changed our way of dress and lost our Cantonese. But there’s a deep core that connects us to our peasant ancestors,” she said.

See also comes from a long line of writers and novelists including her mother and her grandfather. But in her youth, she had foresworn writing as a career because “writers in my family had given me the impression that writing must be the result of pain and suffering.” But while traveling in Europe, she realized that she could write as a means to her goal of a lifestyle without roots.

“I wanted to live life out of a suitcase, no marriage, no children. Writing suddenly seemed a natural means to accomplish this,” she said.

Her first book was the detailed history of her family, “On Gold Mountain,” for which she interviewed more than 100 members of her family. While researching this family history she collected the material to write her first novel, “Flower Net,” which became a national bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book, on the Los Angeles Times Best Books List and rated the top thriller of the year (1997) by This was the beginning of the Liu Hulan and David Start thriller series and substantive career as a writer.

Her acclaimed novel “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” is an achingly beautiful tale that reaches back into Chinese culture, deftly weaving a gripping tale of the subordinate role of women and their use of the ancient secret writing Nu Shu, to communicate, when women’s communication was banned. Her novel “Peony in Love” is a jarring historical tale set against the backdrop of an early-17th-century Chinese opera. “Shanghai Girls” is about two sisters, Pearl and May, who leave Shanghai in 1937 and go to Los Angeles in arranged marriages. It is a story of immigration, identity, war and love, but at its heart, it is a story of sisters.

Along the way, See did put down roots, marry and have children. She and her husband and two sons live in Los Angeles.

A Conversation with Lisa See is cosponsored by the opera house and the Maine Literary Festival, a scholarship project of the Midcoast Branch of the American Association of University Women. All festival proceeds are used for the Midcoast AAUW’s scholarship program for young women and girls who might otherwise not be able to attend college.

The event bookstore operated by the Owl & Turtle Bookstore, a co-sponsor, and desserts for the evening are donated by Paolina’s Way, Camden.

Tickets are $18 in advance and may be purchased until 24 hours before the event at the Owl & Turtle; Left Bank Books, Searsport; the Camden Town Office, weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and online at Tickets will be $20 at the door.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to