Synopses & Reviews
A Thousand Miles of Dreams is an evocative and intimate biography of two Chinese sisters who took very different paths in their quest to be
independent women. Ling Shuhao arrived in Cleveland in 1925 to study
medicine in the middle of a U.S. crackdown on Chinese immigrant communities, and her effort to assimilate began. She became an American named Amy, while her sister Ling Shuhua burst onto the Beijing literary scene as a writer of short fiction. Shuhua's tumultuous affair with Virginia Woolf's nephew during his years in China eventually drew her into the orbit of the Bloomsbury group. The sisters were Chinese "modern girls" who sought to forge their own way in an era of social revolution that unsettled relations between men and women, and among nations. Daughters of an imperial scholar-official and a concubine, they followed trajectories unimaginable to their parents' generation.
Biographer Sasha Su-Ling Welland stumbled across their remarkable stories while recording her grandmother's oral history. She discovered the secret Amy had jealously hidden from family in the U.S.-her sister's fame as a Chinese woman writer-as well as intriguing discrepancies in the sisters' versions of the past. Shaped by the social history of their day, the journeys of these extraordinary women spanned the twentieth century and three continents in a saga of East-West cultural exchange and personal struggle.
"Welland, a lecturer in anthropology and women's studies at the University of Washington Seattle, reconstructs the lives of her elite Cantonese grandmother, Amy Ling Chen, who in 1925 won a scholarship to study medicine in the United States, and of Amy's elder sister, Ling Shuhua, a writer and painter who remained in China until 1945. Welland balances family sources with meticulous research and insightful reading of Shuhua's fiction. Describing the anti-Communist paramilitary violence targeting Chinese 'modern girls' that precipitated Amy's emigration, Welland charts her grandmother's courageous years as a medical intern and her subsequent pursuit of all-American respectability after marriage to a successful Chinese researcher. Welland also recounts Shuhua's frustrated existence as a faculty wife and struggling writer at Wuhan University, sensitively examining records of Shuhua's affair with visiting British lecturer Julian Bell, Virginia Woolf's nephew. Welland also tracks Shuhua's tenuous postwar relationship to the Bloomsbury Group (Julian Bell having died in the Spanish Civil War) and the genesis of her memoir Ancient Melodies published by Leonard Woolf's Hogarth Press in 1953. This restrained and melancholy biography is filled with fascinating glimpses of 20th-century Chinese women's intellectual history and insights into the Chinese-American and Anglo-Chinese experience. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Welland wisely refrains from intruding on the narration, allowing her
fascinating topic to speak for itself. Scholarly and 'serious' in its depth and breadth of research, Welland's book is also highly readable and full of rich detail....This is a book that enlightens as much as it delights and remains with you long after the reading."
"Welland is an anthropologist with a novelist's eye for the art of both
making lives and making books. She weaves biography, memoir, genealogy,
social history, literary criticism, and theoretical reflection coherently, accessibly, and, indeed, beautifully."
Booklist (starred review)
About the Author
Sasha Su-Ling Welland has woven together, in this biography, the remarkable lives of her grandmother and great-aunt. She is assistant professor of anthropology and women studies at the University of Washington in Seattle.