This is happening to me. Chinese translation and publication rights to The Sisters have been sold to China South Booky Culture Media in Beijing. What would you most like to know about how a Chinese audience receives an American story?
Monthly Archives: September 2011
The Story Behind The Sisters
I’m often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” For my first novel, The Sisters, the story behind the story is very personal.
When I was about ten or eleven years old, my sister pushed me into our room and whispered that our grandmother, who had been upset all day, had received a letter telling her that her sister was dead. I knew about my grandmother’s brothers, but this was the first time I’d ever heard mention of a sister. I tried to ask questions, but my sister shushed me, telling me I must never ask anyone about it—and especially not Grandma. Later, my mother repeated the same admonition, but I couldn’t stop thinking about this estranged sister.
Over the years, fragments of the family lore surrounding the sister trickled down to me—though my grandmother still kept silent. I heard the sister was a tramp and a gold-digger. Sometimes it was implied that this was why she had been cast out of the family, but other times it was suggested she had turned her back on them. I could understand how someone might reject a family member. I could understand how a person might speak badly of the one who had been rejected. But I could not understand, and I could not stop wanting to know, what kind of offense or betrayal could result in one sister’s deciding to erase another, as if she had never existed. My grandmother died without sharing the intricacies of her story, so I knew if I was ever going to have an answer to my question, I’d have to write it myself.
Learning to Read and the Library Card
My grandmother taught me to read.
While she cooked, I would sit at the kitchen table, drawing row after row of variant loops and squiggles on lined paper, from time to time calling, “Are there any letters here, Grandma?” Bless her, she found one every time, and right then she would stop and write the true letter plainly for me to use as a model for practice. It wasn’t long before I could write all the letters, quickly learning the order from the alphabet song. Words followed, and to teach these Grandma used my sister’s first grade readers—I can still see blond-haired Jane with her blue ribbon, running in her white dress and black Mary Janes alongside the brown-haired Dick, accompanied by the energetic Spot. After that, Grandma started letting me choose books during the weekly trip to the library, checking them out on her card. Soon, though, my appetite for books exceeded the checkout limit, meaning Grandma had to forego getting books for herself, and so she asked that I be given a card of my own.
Click here to read the full story on the Macmillan website.
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