Add to GoodReads

A Thousand Miles of Dreams

The Journeys of Two Chinese Sisters

Sasha Su-Ling Welland

*For the bibliography mentioned in the book, click here.

A Thousand Miles of Dreams is an evocative and intimate biography of two Chinese sisters who took very different paths in their quests 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 United States—her sister's fame as a Chinese woman writer—as well as intriguing discrepancies between 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.

Visit the author's website for more information and upcoming events.
« less more »
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 392Size: 6 3/4 x 9 3/8
978-0-7425-5313-2 • Hardback • September 2006 • $26.95 • (£17.95)
978-0-7425-5314-9 • Paperback • September 2007 • $19.95 • (£13.95)
978-1-4422-1006-6 • eBook • September 2007 • $19.95 • (£13.95)
Series: Asian Voices
Sasha Su-Ling Welland has woven together the remarkable lives of her grandmother and great-aunt in this biography. She is assistant professor of anthropology and women studies at the University of Washington.
Prologue: Departure
Part I: Moving House
Chapter 1: Origins
Chapter 2: Ambition
Chapter 3: Disappointment
Chapter 4: Courtyards
Chapter 5: Mountains and Walls
Part II: Casting Off
Chapter 6: Lessons
Chapter 7: Mist
Chapter 8: Amid Ghosts
Chapter 9: In the Streets
Chapter 10: Romance
Chapter 11: Gatherings
Chapter 12: Modern Medicine
Chapter 13: Crescent Moon
Part III: Seeking a Mooring
Chapter 14: Arrival
Chapter 15: Adrift
Chapter 16: Souvenirs
Chapter 17: The Entangling Net
Chapter 18: Rice Porridge
Chapter 19: War Letters
Chapter 20: An American Home
Chapter 21: Wandering
Chapter 22: The Chinese House
Epilogue: Return
Filled with fascinating glimpses of twentieth-century Chinese women's intellectual history and insights into the Chinese-American and Anglo-Chinese experience.
Publishers Weekly

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

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.
The Seattle Times

Welland skillfully navigates the murky waters of memory, exaggeration, cultural misunderstanding and transformed identity, with both a scholar's critical eye and a granddaughter's desire to believe.
Honolulu Advertiser

Fascinating . . . Sasha Welland has produced a wonderful book from the lives of these two strong sisters.
Times Literary Supplement

An intriguing and memorable study. . . . We have been told the lives of two powerful and interesting women . . . both determined to surmount as best they could the restrictions placed on women's lives.
Peter Stansky; Virginia Woolf Miscellany

Biographies are said to narrate the life of an individual. In this multi-layered work, Sasha Su-Ling Welland accomplishes much more, as she relates a complex story of re-creations, self-discovery, and selective memories. . . . [A] well-written and valuable work, especially for the many interesting points that it makes on the intricacies of cultural encounters, usages of the past, and exoticism.
Valentina Boretti, University of London; H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online

Welland's forebears could fairly be called trailblazing, and . . . she deftly shows how their lives mingled with history.
The Instrumentalist

The author of A Thousand Miles of Dreams intersperses the accounts of the two sisters' lives in alternate chapters, thus providing a fascinating comparison of experiences in these distant countries and contrasting cultures as the Second World War loomed.
Michael Sheringham; Asian Affairs

Remarkable. . . . A coming-of-age account of the Ling sisters, Welland's book . . . reveal[s] new insights about the role of Chinese women as it changed not only in China but also the West. . . . A well-crafted and lively book that is sure to capture the imagination of lay readers and scholars alike.
International Examiner

With elegant writing and a delicate anthropological touch, Sasha Su-Ling Welland offers . . . an intriguing biography of two Chinese sisters. . . . Overall, while a fine biography, this book is also an informative and engaging work in the literary genre of ethnography, enhancing our understanding of women, education, and intellectual history in modern China, as well as exploring the experiences of Chinese immigrants in the United States and Europe.
American Anthropologist

Sasha Welland's deft and gripping biography of her grandmother and great-aunt is elegiac but never sentimental. It is compelling, lucid, historically nuanced, and an absorbing read.
Gail Hershatter, University of California, Santa Cruz

Sasha Su-Ling Welland is Heartland-born with deep China roots. In A Thousand Miles of Dreams, she reaches back through family documents and her own scholarly reading of the historical record to create a portrait of a family's personal journey that is moving, passionate, and fully accessible.
Clark Blaise, author of I Had a Father, Time Lord, and others; former director of the International Writers Program, University of Iowa

This is a wonderfully written account of two Chinese modern girls whose lives traversed the entire twentieth century from China to England and the United States. Their artistic and professional accomplishments through decades of war and exile may be legendary, but their personal lives were also filled with many human frailties. Intermixed with Welland's reminiscences of growing up in the United States as a Eurasian whose mother was partly raised by an African American housekeeper, the tales of these women weave an intricate tapestry of literary pursuit, transnational migration, an interracial affair, and middle-class domesticity. The author wields the pen of a historian, an ethnographer, and a poet, but ultimately it is the writer as a granddaughter and a grandniece that gives the story its most intimate human touch.
Shu-mei Shih, University of California, Los Angeles; author of The Lure of the Modern

With magnificently fluid erudition and a compassionately wry eye, Sasha Su-Ling Welland forges the story of two remarkable women whose lives expand our knowledge of twentieth-century feminism in China, the U.S., and Britain. Weaving her own autobiographical accounts into the mix, Welland deftly depicts how the absurdities of racial and sexual constructs persist over time and place, while arguing for the resolute power of following one's heart.
Anna Maria Hong, editor of Growing Up Asian American: An Anthology