Yesterday, I attended “An Evening with Lisa See” at the central branch of the Kitchener Public Library. This 85 Queen Event was well attended by fans of the best-selling author of On Cold Mountain, Flower Net, The Interior, Dragon Bones, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony in Love, Shanghai Girls, and The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane.
Lisa See’s latest novel, The Island of Sea Women, was released earlier this month.
Kitchener reader, blogger, and dedicated volunteer Lizz DiCesare joined Lisa for an armchair conversation.
After announcing that she didn’t plan to read aloud, Lisa launched into the back story behind The Island of Sea Women.
Ten years ago, Lisa was sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office when she came across a short article about the haenyeo, female divers on Jeju Island off the South Korean coast. She ripped the page from the magazine and took it home.
After eight years of thinking about a possible story, she experienced a sense of urgency. Realizing that the work tradition would die within fifteen years, she decided to spend two years researching and writing the book.
While visiting Jeju Island, Lisa had a “full senses immersion” into the culture. She interviewed women in their 70s, 80s, and 90s and collected anecdotes about the matrifocal society of the island.
For generations, women divers supported their families by free-diving deep into the ocean to harvest its bounty. They possessed the abilities to hold their breaths for prolonged periods and withstand cold temperatures. Their husbands stayed home to raise the children and do menial chores.
Having read several of Lisa’s novels, I am familiar with her extraordinary attention to detail and focus on female relationships. She has always been intrigued by stories that have been lost, forgotten, or deliberately covered up.
The Island of Sea Women is sitting on my nightstand…I can’t wait to start reading!