The Dragon's Lady by Joanne Pence
The Dragon's Lady by Joanne Pence is a love story, but it's more than a love story. Pence delves into Chinese American cultural relations in 1906 San Francisco. She immerses the reader into the vast differences in the lives of the white population and the Chinese population through the lives of Ruth Greer and Li Hanlin while demonstrating how people themselves tend to be very similar regardless of culture. When Ruth meets Hanlin, she feels an immediate attraction that leads her to look for reasons to return to the Li household. She becomes an English tutor for the Li family much to her father's dismay and confusion. Ruth's father works hard to separate her from Hanlin as Hanlin fights his attraction to Ruth. Pence's exploration of the culture of Chinatown is at once interesting, engaging, and discomforting. Pence pulls the reader into a world filled with drugs, sex, and violence seen from multiple angles. Her writing depicts the world in which the characters live without being gratuitously graphic. The characters populating the pages of The Dragon Lady are as diverse as the people who populated San Francisco in 1906. Tragedy, bigotry, misconceptions, betrayal, loyalty, and love, both romantic and familial, travel through the pages of The Dragon's Lady taking the reader on a journey of survival, triumph, loss, and renewal that rings as relevant today as it did during the 1906 time period in which it was set. Pence's words inspire the reader to look beyond the exterior to the individual's heart and soul before passing judgment.