‘See’-ing diversity in action: Author speaks to school about cultural identity


Lisa See spoke to the school community regarding the importance of being open to a more fluid interpretation of race and conversations about diversity. Credit: Ryan Albert/Chronicle

Casey Kim

The Asian Students in Action club invited New York Times Best Selling author Lisa See to speak about her family history and struggles with identity Monday. See is the first all-school assembly speaker chosen by the club.

ASiA Club invited See in hopes that her speech would initiate conversations about cultural identity among the student body, club president Lucy Kim ’19 said.

“We thought she would offer a unique insight on what identity means, and this is because she grew up in a very unique situation,” Kim said. “Something that we want to accomplish through this is [to] facilitate meaningful discussions about the way identity plays a role in our lives and how we choose to identify, even though other people might have a different perspective of us.”

See discussed how her experience growing up in a Chinese-American family has influenced her writing. See grew up in the Chinatown neighborhood of Los Angeles surrounded by both cultures and learned about her great-grandfather, Fong See, who came to America in the 1870s from China.

“My first book is about the Chinese side of my family,” See said. “I had a line in my foreword, ‘I know I don’t look Chinese, but I’m Chinese in my heart. Out of the whole book, that was the one line people kept coming back to.”

Members of the English department are considering including See’s novels in the upper school curriculum, English teacher Jocelyn Medawar said.

“Whenever students have the opportunity to hear a writer like See speak, they are invited to pick up a book and read more,” Medawar said. “Personally, I’m interested in novels that take place in Los Angeles, and learning more about Chinatown in the 1930s could be interesting for the students as well.”

Some students said they enjoyed listening to the inspiration behind See’s novels.

“I thought her talk was very interesting,” Izzy Yanover ’19. “I like that she described all the creativity that went in her books and her experience writing them.”