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On Gold Mountain by Lisa See

  • Oct 5, 2013 · 8:00 AM
  • East West Cafe, Howarth Park

Questions from LisaSee.com
Book Club Discussion Questions
By Larry Sells and Lisa See
1. In America we all share in the immigrant experience. We all have people in our families who were brave enough, scared enough, or crazy enough to leave their home countries to come here. What are some of the similarities and differences between the experiences of Lisa’s Chinese-American family and the experiences of other groups (Italian, Jewish, Mexican, Irish, etc.)?

2. Lisa tries hard to be objective in her memoir, which is difficult to do because of its personal nature. Do you think she succeeds? Why or why not? What do you suppose Lisa’s family’s response was to the book? How do you think your family would react if you wrote your family history?

3. Immigrants bring many things with them to the U.S.—art, religion, food, and dress, to name a few. In the Chinese culture, food is a way for families to gather together and celebrate. It also has many other traditional meanings. What did food mean in your family? What special dishes were made? Have they changed and evolved through time?

4. While many people initially read On Gold Mountain because they’re interested in learning about the Chinese-American experience, they often become more attached to the stories of the white women—Ticie, Stella, and Carolyn—who married into the See family. What characteristics bound them together? What characteristics separated them from each other?

5. A recurring theme in Lisa’s books—and it started with On Gold Mountain—is lost women’s history and stories. For your book group to gather today you have to have had many strong, brave, enduring, and triumphant women in your families too. How and why are women’s stories neglected? Discuss the experiences of women in your families.

6. It could be argued that Fong See, the family patriarch, is the most important person in the book. What values make him successful? What are his weaknesses? What do you think of his separation from Letticie?

7. What is the most surprising thing you learned about Chinese immigration to America as a result of reading this book? Were you surprised by the anti-Chinese laws that were passed locally and nationally? Can you think of other instances where laws have been targeted against a particular group in your area? If not, do you think they could have been passed and you don’t know it?


8. How important are the family tree and photographs to your reading of the book?

9. At the end of the book, Lisa writes about her journey to Dimtao. Why was it important for her to make that trip? What do you think is meant by the last line?
This is a great non fiction book about the settlement of Lisa See's ancestors in the San Francisco area around the time of the Gold Rush.

We will determine the location when we are closer to the date.

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  • Diane G.

    I'm sorry to cancel at the last minute, but I am not going to finish the book in time. I'll try again next month.

    October 4, 2013

  • Leena

    East West Cafe looks like a nice place but would have been more fun to meet in a Chinese place place rather than a Mediterranean one.

    October 4, 2013

  • Georgiann M.

    I can't make tomorrow, we are caught up hosting friends from out of town. Sorry I will miss the discussion.

    October 4, 2013

    • Lisa N.

      we will miss you!

      October 4, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Almost finished and disappointed to not be able to attend!
    Any members interested in getting together next weekend if you can't make this one? I would so like to talk to someone about it.

    October 1, 2013

    • Lisa N.

      I can't because of sports - we will miss you!

      October 4, 2013

  • Meganwind E.

    I was surprised to discover a strong resistance to reading this memoir - my Chinese father's story is so unlike those of most Chinese immigrants that reading these stories (like Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan and others) sometimes leaves me feeling more alienated than ever. Once more I'll come mostly to listen, not having read the book. I trust I will read it at some point.

    October 2, 2013

  • Bonny Russell L.

    So sorry I can't make it. My daughter has a soccer game. Looking forward to seeing everyone in November.

    October 1, 2013

  • Zee

    Depending on the location, I would love to attend this.

    August 19, 2013

    • Lisa N.

      we have picked a location!

      October 1, 2013

  • Lisa N.

    We are going back to East West at 8:00 am. I reserved 2 tables of 8 each. Please change your RSVP if you can't make it!
    Also, the restaurant is going to have one ticket per table...so it might be easier if you bring cash.

    October 1, 2013

  • Dara Krahne P.

    Sorry family day for my bday and anniversary....have the book!

    September 24, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Attending the National Taiwan University Zoology Department 40-year Reunion in Tracy.

    August 7, 2013

  • Julie B

    I bought the book, but will miss the walk and talk. :-(

    August 2, 2013

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