Quotes from Shanghai Girls

Lisa See ·  309 pages

Rating: (120.1K votes)


“May and I are sisters. We'll always fight, but we'll always make up as well. That's what sisters do: we argue, we point out each other's frailties, mistakes, and bad judgment, we flash the insecurities we've had since childhood, and then we come back together. Until the next time. ”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“We hug, but there are no tears. For every awful thing that's been said and done, she is my sister. Parents die, daughters grow up and marry out, but sisters are for life. She is the only person left in the world who shares my memories of our childhood, our parents, our Shanghai, our struggles, our sorrows, and, yes, even our moments of happiness and triumph. My sister is the one person who truly knows me, as I know her. The last thing May says to me is 'When our hair is white, we'll still have our sister love.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“Maybe we're all like that with our mothers. They seem ordinary until one day they're extraordinary.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“We're told that men are strong & brave, but I think women know how to endure, accept defeat & bear physical & mental agony much better than men.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“Having a baby is painful in order to show how serious a thing life is.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls



“So often, we're told that women's stories are unimportant. After all, what does it matter what happens in the main room, in the kitchen, or in the bedroom? Who cares about the relationships between mother, daughter, and sister? A baby's illness, the sorrows and pains of childbirth, keeping the family together during war, poverty, or even in the best of days are considered small and insignificant compared with the stories of men, who fight against nature to grow their crops, who wage battles to secure their homelands, who struggle to look inward in search of the perfect man. We're told that men are strong and brave, but I think women know how to endure, accept defeat, and bear physical and mental agony much better than men. The men in my life—my father, Z.G., my husband, my father-in-law, my brother-in-law, and my son—faced, to one degree or another, those great male battles, but their hearts—so fragile—wilted, buckled, crippled, corrupted, broke, or shattered when confronted with the losses women face every day...Our men try to act strong, but it is May, Yen-yen, Joy, and I who must steady them and help them bear their pain, anguish, and shame.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“When you don’t have much, having less isn’t so bad.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“i would rather be married to broken jade than flawless clay”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“What stays with me most is a general sense of loss, unease, and longing for the past that cannot be relieved.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“When the sun is shining, think of the time it won't be, because even when you're sitting in your house with the doors shut, misfortune can fall from above.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls



“I wonder if there was anything I would have done differently. I hope I would have done everything differently, except I know everything would have turned out the same. That's the meaning of fate.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“Parents die, daughters grow up and marry out, but sisters are for life.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“إنني و ماي أختان ، ولطالما تشاجرنا ، ولكننا تصالحنا أيضاً . فهذا ماتفعله الأخوات . سنتشاجر ، و ستنتقد إحدانا عيوب الأخرى و أخطائها ، و ستحكم إحدانا على الأخرى ، وسننفّس عن كل القلق الذي شعرنا به منذ الطفولة ثم نعود لنتصالح مجدداً إلى أن تحين المره القادمة .”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“People say you need to be strong, smart, and lucky to survive hard times, war, a natural disaster, or physical torture. But I say emotional abuse—anxiety, fear, guilt, and degradation—is far worse and much harder to survive.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“It's funny how in that moment I see things clearly. Am I beaten down? Yes. Have I allowed myself to become a victim? Somewhat. Am I afraid? Always. Does some part of me still long to fly away from this place? Absolutely. But I can't leave. Sam and I have built a life for Joy. It isn't perfect, but it's a life. My family's happiness means more to me that starting over again.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls



“Her heart was like a great road with room for everyone.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“As I speak, I’m reminded of the old saying that diseases go in through the mouth, disasters come out of the mouth, meaning that words can be like bombs themselves.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“A dragon doesn't surrender. A dragon fights fate. This is not some loud, roaring feeling. It feels more like someone blew on an ember and found a slight orange glow.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“Don't ever feel that you have to hide who you are. Nothing good ever comes from keeping secrets like that.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“But then this is how it is for women everywhere. You experience one lapse in conscience, in how low you think you'll go, in what you'll accept, and pretty soon you're at the bottom”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls



“When you're held underwater, you think only of air.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“Because inside we still carry the dreams of what could have been, of what should have been, of what we wish could still be. This doesn't mean we aren't content. We are content, but the romantic longings of our girlhood have never entirely left us. It's like Yen-Yen said all those years ago: 'I look in the mirror and I'm surprised by what I see.' I look in the mirror and still expect to see my Shanghai-girl self- not the wife and mother I've become.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“I focus my eyes on my jade bracelet. All these years and for all the years after I die, it will remain unchanged. It will always be hard and cold- just a piece of stone. Yet for me it is an object that ties me to the past, to people and places that are gone forever. Its continued perfection serves as a physical reminder to keep living, to look to the future, to cherish what I have. It reminds me to endure. I'll live one morning after another.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“It has been said that marriages are arranged by Heaven, that destiny will bring even the most distantly separated people together, that all is settled before birth, and no matter how much we wander from our paths, no matter how our fortunes change—for good or bad—all we can do is accomplish the decree of fate. This, in the end, is our blessing and our heartbreak.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“Mama used to tell us a story about a cicada sitting high in a tree. It chirps and drinks in dew, oblivious to the praying mantis behind it. The mantis arches up its front leg to stab the cicada, but it doesn't know an oriole perches behind it. The bird stretches out its neck to snap up the mantis for a midday meal, but its unaware of the boy who's come into the garden with a net. Three creatures—the cicada, the mantis and the oriole—all coveted gains without being aware of the greater and inescapable danger that was coming.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls



“We may look and act modern in many ways, but we can’t escape what we are... obedient chinese daughters.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“We view the world very much as peasants in the countryside have for millennia. they've alsways said that the mountains are high and the emperor is far away, meaning palace intrigues and imperial threats have no impact on their lives.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“There was a typhoon the day you were born... It is said that a Dragon born in a storm will have a particularly tempestuous fate. You always believe you are right, and this makes you do things you shouldn't... You're a Dragon, and of all the signs only a Dragon can tame the fates. Only a Dragon can wear all the horns of destiny, duty, and power. Your sister is merely a Sheep...”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“I don't want her to either, which is exactly what I've been saying. Still, there's a part of me that hates that our family businesses- the very things that have kept Joy fed, clothed, and housed- are so embarrassing to her...We raised our children to be Americans, but what we wanted were proper Chinese sons and daughters.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls


“Sometimes you think you have all of tomorrow ahead of you,’ Mama often said. ‘When the sun is shinning, think of the time it won’t be, because even when you’re sitting in your house with the doors shut, misfortune can fall from above.”
― Lisa See, quote from Shanghai Girls



About the author

Lisa See
Born place: Paris, France
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