Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Meeting of September 27, 2009

This month's meeting was a Colette's home. All members were present, Beth, Betty, Carla, Colette, Janet, Joan, Jolene, Linda, Michèle and Shirley. We also welcomed a new member Jane. We had not met since June, and we had a good chat about our summer activities, weddings being the major subject of discussion. Colette and Jane provided us with wonderful Chinese hors d'oeuvres, pot stickers and small egg rolls. We were also treated to a wonderful blueberry pie made by Colette's husband.

This month's book, recommended by Carla was Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. Carla's son married this summer, a woman of Chinese heritage. She described the parts of the wedding ceremony that were very similar to the customs described in the novel when Lily marries; the groom and his entourage go to the bride's home to bring her to the wedding and the bride's family and entourage let her go with reluctance; the Tea Ceremony performed by the groom; the red envelopes with money offerings.

The majority enjoyed the book, especially getting insight into another culture , the value of women in the household, how her family's place in society controlled her life, the requirements on her from childhood to old age. If a girl did not realize a good marriage, she had little value to her family. The story also told us about foot binding and Nu Shu that is women's writing, sworn sisters and Laotong or old sames.

Beth discussed the writing style. She felt that it had a formal melodramatic quality to it but was very readable. Many members felt that the book was sad. Beth also pointed out that many themes in the book are universal, the relationship of women friends, the difference between our relationships with women friends and our relationship with our husbands; the often tenuous relationship with in-laws. She also talked about how Lily refused to see the pain and hurt she had caused her Laotong Snowflower, until she was bluntly told by the sworn sisters and how she tried repent for her actions after Snowflower's death. It showed how our interpretation of the importance of our place in society can make us blind to the impact of our actions and words.

The book generated a lively discussion about the foot binding, women's place in society depending in what society you are born, family ties and how little or how much they have changed depending on your culture. An example is how we treat our elders. Many older societies such as the Chinese do not tend to leave their elders in seniors homes as western society does.

The book was a good read, interesting with a good flow and informative giving us insight into another culture. Thank you Carla!

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