In Marin / READING LIST
MM: What do you think makes female
friendships so profound, even in the
face of adversity and cultural shifts?
LS: I’m drawn to writing about female
friendship because it’s unlike any other
relationship we have in our lives. We
expect our women friends to love us and
support us, especially in times of adversity. We share the good, bad and trying
parts of our lives with our friends. In
fact, we’ll tell a friend something we
won’t tell our mothers, our partners or
our children. This is a particular kind of
intimacy — and it can leave us open to
the deepest betrayals.
MM: What drew you to write about
Korea’s Jeju Island and the haenyeo?
LS: In many ways I feel that the haenyeo — the diving women of Jeju Island
— called to me. I was sitting in my doctor’s waiting room, leafing through
magazines, and I came across a tiny
article, just one paragraph and one
small photo, about these remarkable
women. I ripped it out and took it home.
I hung on to the article for eight years
Author Talk The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See (Los
Angeles), Scribner, $27. Lisa See’s latest novel
is set on a small Korean island where secrets
abound. When two girls, best friends, come
of age to work with the village’s all-female
diving collective, there is plenty of adventure
and danger to be found. In a tale spanning
decades, See, a New York Times best-selling author, imbues her
characters with a rich and riveting life that will keep readers
enthralled. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera April 9, noon;
$55 ticket includes book and lunch.
The Parade by Dave Eggers (Mill Valley), Knopf,
$25.95. In Dave Eggers’ novel The Parade, the
story’s central location remains unnamed — all
the reader knows is that 10 years of war has left
this land in terrible shape. The story follows two
men, at odds in their personalities and philoso-
phies, who have been hired to finish a highway
meant to serve as an armistice. Grappling with the complex idea
of peace, this latest work from Eggers proves that his wealth of
imagination endures unabated. Appearing at Book Passage Corte
Madera April 5, 7 p.m.
The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell (San Francisco),
Hogarth, $28. When you can’t afford a plane
ticket, the next-best option is a good read.
Caine Prize winner Namwali Serpell’s sweeping,
ambitious tale depicts three families plagued by
a curse over the course of generations. Readers
might wonder if they’ll need a passport as the
story roams from India to Italy to England and the characters’
tangled fates converge in Zambia. There’s also a bit of time
travel: Serpell’s novel moves expertly from 1855 to a brilliantly
imagined Southern Africa of 2050. Appearing at Book Passage
Corte Madera April 9, 7 p.m.
Swimming for Sunlight by Allie Larkin (Bay
Area), Atria Books, $16.99. When aspiring cos-
tume designer Katie gives up everything in a
divorce to make sure she and canine companion
Barkimedes aren’t separated, she decides to
move to Florida to live with her grandmother,
Nan. She learns there’s more to Nan then she
ever thought to ask about; meanwhile, Katie’s former college
flame arrives in town. It’s a great spring read. Appearing at Book
Passage Corte Madera April 24, 7 p.m.
Local Page Turners
Reviews by Book Passage Marketing Manager Zack Ruskin.
We sat down with Lisa See
to discuss her new novel
The Island of Sea Women.
before I decided that now was the time
to write about the haenyeo. They have a
matrifocal society — a society focused
on women. The women hold their
breath for two minutes and dive down
60 feet (deep enough to get the bends)
to harvest seafood. They are the breadwinners in their families, while their
husbands take care of the children and
do the cooking. In the past, [the] women
would retire at age 55. Today, the young-est haenyeo is 55. I was and am amazed
by their bravery and persistence, as well
as by the camaraderie and sisterhood
that they share with each other. It’s said
that in about 15 years, this culture will
be gone from the world. I felt compelled
to write about them while I still could.
MM: What do you think readers, and just
people in general, can learn from the div-
ers your characters are based on?
LS: In the past, in addition to the ordinary day-to-day hardships they faced in
their work, they would dive in winter off
the coast of Vladivostok. Can you imagine how cold that water must have been?
The haenyeo have the greatest ability
of all human groups to withstand cold
water. Second, the older generation of
divers lived through incredibly dark and
difficult times: Japanese colonialism,
World War II, the Korean War and then
the severity and hardships of how the
[politics of the] Red Scare played out on
Jeju Island. Third, these women work
together and live their lives together.
They are literally facing life and death
every day. Somehow, they are able to do
this while maintaining a really good,
and wry, sense of humor. We all face
adversity in our lives. Sometimes we
rise to the occasion and sometimes
we fail. CALIN VAN PARIS