Friday, May 11, 2018

#Giveaway - Showcase - Remembering Shanghai by Isabel Sun Chao and Claire Chao

Just in time for Mother's Day I'm so pleased to be bringing you a showcase of Remembering Shanghai: A Memoir of Socialites, Scholars and Scoundrels a memoir about growing up in Shanghai during the glamorous 1930s and 1940s by Isabel Sun Chao and Claire Chao. And I"m so happy to tell you that Ms. Chao's publicist is sponsoring a giveaway. Details below!

ISBN-13: 9780999393819
Chao, LLC
Release Date: 5-1-2018
Length: 308 pp
Buy It: Amazon/B&N/Kobo/IndieBound


A high position bestowed by China's empress dowager grants power and wealth to the Sun family. For Isabel, growing up in glamorous 1930s and '40s Shanghai, it is a life of utmost privilege. But while her scholar father and fashionable mother shelter her from civil war and Japanese occupation, they cannot shield the family forever.

When Mao comes to power, eighteen-year-old Isabel journeys to Hong Kong, not realizing that she will make it her home--and that she will never see her father again. Meanwhile, the family she has left behind struggles to survive, only to have their world shattered by the Cultural Revolution. Isabel returns to Shanghai fifty years later with her daughter, Claire, to confront their family's past--one they discover is filled with love and betrayal, kidnappers and concubines, glittering pleasure palaces and underworld crime bosses.

Lavishly illustrated and meticulously researched, Remembering Shanghai follows five generations from a hardscrabble village to vibrant Shanghai to the bright lights of Hong Kong. By turns harrowing and heartwarming, this vivid memoir explores identity, loss and the unpredictable nature of life against the epic backdrop of a nation and a people in turmoil.

The Giveaway is for one print copy
of Remembering Shanghai US ONLY
Please use Rafflecopter form below to enter
Good Luck!

Read an excerpt:

I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Muma was wearing the most gorgeous dress I’d ever seen. I was in her bedroom watching, enthralled, as our resident tailor gave the final fitting for her new qipao. Mother stood in front of the rosewood cheval mirror as Mr. Yang flitted around her, industriously pinning a tuck here, smoothing a dart there, adjusting the hemline, until every square inch draped perfectly. I bobbed and twisted to see past him, the gray silk shifting across her slim silhouette like mother-of-pearl in the midday sun. The fitting took place in silence. Although my mother was fun and conversational in social settings, Mr. Yang was, at best, laconic. He had been living in our household and making the family’s clothes since I was a toddler. Over the years, he and Muma had developed a private code of eye signals, nods, tugs, pats and small gestures that expediently conveyed all that was needed. Now, as Mr. Yang stepped back to view his creation and I finally saw the qipao in its entirety, my yelp of delight broke the silence. Bursting from the silk were giant blooms embroidered in fluorescent hues of lavender, pink and turquoise, and outlined in silver filigree. The flowers had, on the one hand, the quality of a vivid dream, and, on the other, a startling realism as if they were living beings. Plum blossoms and peony limbs intertwined like lovers along the curves of Muma’s hips, waist and chest, arching up toward her delicate features. Mr. Yang had framed the gorgeous bower with a double-piped border of cobalt and fuchsia, and finished it with a mandarin collar and satin fasteners. I gasped. “Muma, I’ve never, ever seen anything so beautiful in my whole life!” “All seven years of it? Come closer—let’s look at the needlework together,” she said, pulling me gently toward her. “I wanted a qipao of my favorite spring flowers, peony and plum. I sketched them in watercolors, and Mr. Yang sent the picture to the Suzhou silk makers.” “Suzhou—is that the name of a shop?” “No, silly girl. It’s a beautiful city outside Shanghai with lovely canals, gardens and pretty maidens. And also the best silk weavers and stitchers in all of China.” I recalled a scruffy stranger arriving at the servants’ door a few weeks earlier, clutching a cotton baofu and declaring in an unfamiliar dialect that he had something from Suzhou for Tailor Yang. He had untied the topknot of the baofu to reveal several pieces of neatly folded gray silk embroidered in dazzling colors. I had marveled at how something so fabulous could emerge from so ordinary a bundle. “Once the silk was delivered to Shanghai,” Muma continued, “Mr. Yang put everything aside to make it into this qipao.” “The flowers look alive, like they’re growing on your body.” “Mr. Yang gave the silk artists my measurements so he could cut the fabric exactly to my figure. We had to wait a whole year for it to be embroidered.” I pressed closer to Muma and gazed into the hollow of a teal-blue peony, stroking the lustrous stamens with my index finger. I scrutinized every meticulous detail: each flower had a dozen petals; each petal, at least five shades; each shade, dozens of stitches. Seeing my fascination, Muma continued, “When Mr. Yang ordered the embroidery, the workshop owner guaranteed that each flower would have at least one thousand stitches.” “Did someone really count them?” “I must say I was surprised when Mr. Yang told me that. Of course, the more stitches, the more real it looks. I’m too busy to fuss about things like that.” The tailor flinched but remained silent. He was such a perfectionist that he probably had counted the stitches. “Thank you, Mr. Yang, the qipao is even lovelier than I’d hoped. Please make the final alterations right away . . . remember, I’m wearing it to my friend’s wedding next Saturday.” Muma adjusted a pin in her chignon. “And you needn’t worry about Third Daughter’s flower-girl dress. We’ve already been to Wing On and found a lovely five-tiered pink satin dress for her.” She stroked my cheek affectionately. “The whole theme of the wedding is pink. Nowadays, I notice more brides wearing white gowns, like the foreigners. The groom’s family is superstitious about using white— the funeral color. Pink is so much happier, anyway.” With that, Muma stepped behind the lacquer screen to change. I was embarrassed to be on my own with the tailor. He had not once looked at me during the fitting; he must have still been mad about what I’d done to him the previous week. Mr. Yang lived above our kitchen in a workshop that would have been hopelessly cluttered had he not been so fastidious. He sewed our family’s clothes at a long wooden table, which he kept completely clear aside from whatever garment he was working on. From his seat at the center of his workbench, he could stretch a spindly arm up to the bamboo rods holding spools of multicolored thread; down into the cardboard boxes of brocade, sequins and lace, piping and fasteners; or back onto the tidy shelves of fabric bolts. He kept the measurements of all our family members, and insisted that we children come see him during the first week of the lunar New Year—not in order to give us gifts, but so he could update his records. He single-handedly took care of the clothing needs of our entire family of eight—everything from Muma’s couture dresses to my father’s Frenchwool changshan and my grandmother’s conservative gowns, as well as the children’s various outfits. Even after Diedie bought him a Singer treadle sewing machine, Mr. Yang persisted in hand-stitching the family’s outfits, claiming machine-made garments were suitable only for the servants’ work clothes. He took care of his responsibilities uncomplainingly, rarely leaving the house except to buy supplies. Mr. Yang chose solitude even at night, when the rest of the staff gathered in the garden to tell ghost stories and nibble watermelon seeds. He preferred a hard cot crammed into the corner of his workshop to a bed in the servants’ quarters. A week earlier, with nothing to do on my summer vacation, I had gone to Mr. Yang’s room. He was in his usual position at the bench, intently weaving a bright-blue spherical knot for Muma’s peony qipao. At thirteen, he had apprenticed for more than a year with an expert in handmade “frogs”—the woven, braided and spiraled knots and loops used to fasten Chinese clothes. That morning, he glanced up but didn’t greet me as I entered the workshop. I remained near the door watching him complete one knot and begin another. He did not raise his head as I sidled toward the bench. Standing directly opposite him, I removed several shiny items from my pocket and inspected his sallow face with all its angles and concavities. I reached out, gingerly at first, using Muma’s Max Factor lipstick to paint plump ruby-red lips around his tightly pursed ones. Deep furrows creased his forehead, but Mr. Yang still didn’t look up or utter a word. I carried on more confidently, giving him thick brows like bristly silkworms and big circular pink cheeks as he went about making his third knot. He and I finished our handiwork at the same moment, whereupon he marched downstairs and into the study, positioning himself squarely in front of Diedie’s desk. Mr. Yang croaked out two words: “Third Daughter.” My father sent for me immediately and gave me a severe scolding. He then instructed my nanny to awaken Muma, and told Mr. Yang to show my mother what I’d done. Though Diedie spared me the kneeling punishment that he periodically imposed on my siblings, I hadn’t anticipated this. It was rare for Muma to arise before noon; a premature awakening would likely quash her usual equanimity. I crouched anxiously behind a curtain on the secondfloor hallway. The instant Mr. Yang strode past, I scuttled toward the bedroom door to eavesdrop on their conversation. To my relief, in stark contrast to my father’s reaction, Muma let out a tinkling laugh almost immediately: “You mean, Third Daughter just painted this on your face? She’s used my most expensive makeup, all the way from Hollywood, California!” “The girl’s father agrees with me.” Mr. Yang sounded exasperated. “It is extremely disrespectful and unacceptable behavior.” “It seems like that, doesn’t it? Have you ever noticed that she’s fascinated by everything you do? She’s your biggest admirer. Can you not forgive her?” “It’s no excuse for disrupting me at my work “Mr. Yang, have you looked at your face at all?” I heard a drawer open. “Here’s a mirror. Try to put yourself in the shoes of a carefree little girl. All she knows in life is joy . . . Please, let it go.” After a pause, the tailor cleared his throat. He reemerged from my mother’s room so quickly that I nearly tripped as I scrambled back to my hiding place. At Muma’s fitting the following week, I feared he hadn’t forgiven me. I was alarmed when my mother passed me the qipao from behind the screen, motioning for me to take it to him. With the hanger hooked on the fingers of one hand, I folded the dress at the waist and clutched the hem in my other hand. I then crossed the room with as careful a step as I could, so nothing would drag on the floor. I held my breath as I drew near, ready to pass him the qipao with both hands respectfully extended. Our eyes met, and at last I detected the glimmer of a shy smile.

Praise for Remembering Shanghai:

"A highly enjoyable addition to a crowded genre. Its subtitle--A Memoir of Socialites, Scholars and Scoundrels--sets a certain rollicking tone that's sustained throughout . . . an engaging and entertaining saga."

--Fionnuala McHugh, South China Morning Post

"In this elegantly written, intimate and compelling account spanning turbulent centuries, Remembering Shanghai's authors, mother and daughter, have brought warmly and vibrantly to life their family's extraordinary story of lowly origins, high office, austere scholarship, filial loyalty, scandalous betrayal and fabulous wealth."

--Martin Alexander, the Asia Literary Review

"I finished Remembering Shanghai in one sitting. Isabel's mesmerizing stories of her ancestors are brought vividly into the readers' experience by her daughter Claire's magnificent language. I could not put it down!"

--Betty Peh-T'i Wei, PhD, Old Shanghai

"This book is Isabel and Claire's journey in divining their family history--which is also Shanghai's history--in a well-told tale that is by turns jaw-dropping, exciting, touching, tragic, and insightful.

About the authors:
ISABEL SUN CHAO’s childhood in Shanghai coincided with the last eighteen years before Mao came to power. She left on what she thought was a holiday in 1950 and never saw her father again. She has since lived in Hong Kong, where she worked for more than thirty years as a cultural affairs specialist in the US Consulate General. Now in her eighties, Isabel is fully retired, and most days can be found exercising her skills and diplomacy at the mahjong table.
CLAIRE CHAO is Isabel’s daughter, a writer with more than thirty years’ management experience for companies including Tiffany & Co., Harry Winston and Hill & Knowlton. Avenue magazine designated her one of the “500 Most Influential Asian Americans,” and Hong Kong Tatler named her to the “500 List” of “Who’s Who in Hong Kong.” She graduated with highest honors from Princeton University. She lives in Honolulu with her husband and two dogs.
For more information visit their website

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. This book sounds very interesting. Thanks for sharing the post and the giveaway!

  2. This sounds fascinating! I want to know what went down

  3. What an interesting story idea. The book sounds good.

  4. The writing from the small glimpse we are given looks to lovely.

  5. This book would be fascinating, captivating and unforgettable. I have read other Shanghai stories about Jews who escaped the holocaust and lived there. Many thanks.

  6. Replies
    1. I agree Anna and I can't wait until my copy comes so I can dig right in!

  7. Hello everyone, I'm Claire Chao, co-author of the book with my mother. Thank you from my heart for your interest and support! It's my ten-year labor of love. There's no other book out there that offers an insider story like this. Enjoy the journey!

    1. Thank You Claire, be on the lookout for my review too!