Daily Prompt: Bookworm (and it ended up to be a review on the book!)

Daily Prompt post: Grab the nearest book. Open it and go to the tenth word. Do a Google Image Search of the word. Write about what the image brings to mind.

This is somehow relevant since recently, I’m immersed in a really good book, titled Shanghai Girls. I came across the book in the neighborhood library about 3 weeks ago. The words in the first few pages captivate me and they didn’t sound too complex, so I was lead on to read more about it, now I absolutely love the book! It’s one of those books that tell a story behind the glam-up and once-naive personae in the plot.

There has been many little excerpts printed on the first few pages of the book and I’ve decided to choose the tenth word in the Author’s Note.

Author’s Note

Shanghai Girls takes place between 1937 and 1957. Readers will find some of what today we would call politically incorrect terms, but they are accurate to the time. I have used the Wade – Giles system of transliteration for Chinese words – whether in Mandarin, Cantonese, or in the Sze Yap and Wu dialects – again in keeping with the Era.

Regarding the exchange rates: Silver dollars were used in Shanghai before November 1935; Chinese yuan were used after 1935. The two were roughly equivalent. I have chosen to stay with dollars and cents because some were still in circulation and they are a more familiar currency to Western readers. The copper – silver exchange rate ranged from 300 to 330 coppers for every silver dollar (or yuan).

The tenth word is 1957. And as I did a Google image search of that year, many pictures of Elvis Presley appeared on the page, followed by vintage Chevrolet cars, well-dressed people posing with the Chevy, Queen Elizabeth II, a picture of Marilyn Monroe from that year’s photoshoot, etc.

The era of 1950’s tells me most of it about America. Vintage America. About half of Shanghai Girls takes place in the country – Los Angeles (Chinatown in L.A. which was emphasized more – I have an idea somehow the place existed but I don’t know if it’s in existence in the 50’s era mentioned in the story) and a little section on Chicago.

 (And this part is where I decided elaborate abit about the book!)

In the story, the girls have wanted to live the American Dream. They yearn for fairness and equality of treatment,but they understand they’re just not the same like anyone else in the country – whether it’s the color of their skin, where they come from and how they came into the land. The book mentioned of how the Orientals were treated differently in the country, just during that time. And you can see, the story isn’t just about them, but political and social issues as well.

But they are westernized in general since Shanghai was a rich city, referred to as the ‘Paris of Asia‘. There has been alot of descriptions of Shanghai’s architecture inside the book which resemble the West in many ways.

Red lips and rouged, fair skin portrayed on the cover of the book, including the search I did for the year 1957, strikes an image of Marilyn Monroe in my mind. Even though China ; in specific, Shanghai, and the United States of America are both separate lands on both sides of the map, there’s a similar sense between both countries in terms of… the look women have during that era.

As I googled further on ; “fashion in 1950’s” (without spelling out ‘America’ in the search bar), it is as literal as it reveals in the book:

“… full skirts fluffed by petticoats and cinched with little patent leather belts. Last week we dyed our stiletto heels to match our dresses, gloves and hangbags. We went to Palace Salon to have our hair curled and teased to impressive heights, which we now protect with gaily colored scarves tied smartly under our chins.” 

I like to read about how the author, Lisa See, describe things and events, then imagine how it’d be based on what I’ve seen and perceive in films, still visuals and even music. And isn’t it amazing of how authors are able to achieve that purpose of bringing words to life in their books?

That could be the “upper hand” storybooks have over movies / teevee shows and another level of difficulty to do so. Movies / teevee shows can manipulate the live characters in the plot to portray a story that makes sense because of the reactions and emotions you can tell on their faces, while books depend on just words and… the pictorial on the book cover, to portray emotions and it’s another plus-point when they have to use words to show images to its readers.

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