Study Guide

Bette Bao Lord

Bette Bao Lord Biography

Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In her life and her work, Bette Bao Lord, who was born in Shanghai and raised in the United States, provides a bridge between traditional Chinese and modern American culture. Her mother’s family included prominent intellectuals and professionals, and her father, Sandys Bao, was an engineer who had been educated both in China and England and was a member of the Nationalist Chinese government.{$S[A]Bao Lord, Bette;Lord, Bette Bao}

In 1946, Sandys Bao was sent by his government to New York. Later that year, he was given permission to bring his wife and two eldest daughters, Bette, who was then eight years old, and Cathy, who was four. The youngest daughter, Sansan, who was still an infant, remained with an aunt in China. After Mao Zedong came to power in 1949, the Bao family was unable to return to mainland China and to the rest of their family.

During the first years in the United States, the family lived in Brooklyn. The children initially experienced difficulties moving between the Chinese traditions at home and the American milieu, but they adapted quickly. Because education was important to the family, they moved to East Patterson and then Teaneck, New Jersey, for the superior school systems. Lord did well in school and eventually attended Tufts University and Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where she met her future husband, Winston Lord.

When travel restrictions in China became more relaxed, the Baos were able to bring the youngest daughter, Sansan, to Hong Kong, where she was reunited with her family on August 18, 1962. Later that same year, Bette Bao married Winston Lord.

Lord began her writing career by chance after discussing her sister’s story with a publisher at a reception. He saw the potential in an inside account of events in China during the Communist period told through the eyes of a young person. When Lord was unable to find a Chinese translator to work with her sister, she decided to take on the project herself. She translated Sansan’s narrative and added passages of her own. After many...

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Bette Bao Lord Bibliography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Batov, Roni. “Living in Two Cultures: Bette Bao Lord’s Stories of Chinese-American Experience.” The Lion and the Unicorn 11, no. 1 (April, 1987). Lord’s use of two cultures is discussed.

Fox, Mary Virginia. Bette Bao Lord: Novelist and Chinese Voice for Change. Chicago: Children’s Press, 1993. The first book-length biography of Lord; although it is designed for younger readers, it is an informative source.

Lord, Bette Bao. “China Doll.” New York 19 (May 12, 1986): 50-51. In this article, Lord discusses her childhood in America, her children’s book, and her life as the wife of the U.S. ambassador to China. Illuminates the personality of the author.

Lord, Bette Bao. Legacies: A Chinese Mosaic. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990. This autobiographical work is a good source of insights into the author’s life and into the two cultures she represents.

McMurran, Kristin. “Winston Lord May Be an Old China Hand but Wife Bette Wrote the Book on Mandarins.” People Weekly 220 (November 23, 1981): 90, 93-94. This article provides biographical information about Lord and her husband and useful information about the genesis of Spring Moon.

Madden, Kathleen. “Bette Bao Lord: A Wife, Mother Writes Her Own Text.” Vogue 172 (February, 1982): 182. Discusses Lord’s career as an author from a feminist perspective. Lord’s comments on Chinese women illuminate the characters in Spring Moon. For example, Lord states that the role of women in Chinese society has been “revolutionized,” but not “necessarily liberated.”

Walter, Virginia A. “Crossing the Pacific to America: The Use of Narrative.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 16, no. 2 (Summer, 1991). Lord’s use of two cultures is discussed.