The sequel to Shanghai Girls, Dreams of Joy picks up right where the previous story left off – Joy has traveled to China to meet her biological father, artist Z.G. Li, and her adoptive mother/aunt Pearl travels close behind to bring her back. Joy surrenders her passport and enters communist China, believing that communism is good and right for the country. She moves to a small village and reunites with her father. She is initially enamored with the village – her father teaches art lessons, takes her to meet the leaders for an art show, and falls in love with a man from the village (who she quickly marries and has a child with). However, she soon finds that the people are poverty-stricken, starving, and unhappy. Meanwhile, Pearl returns to her Shanghai home to find that it has been made into a boarding house. She makes money by collecting paper (finding many of the billboards that she and her sister May modeled for). May writes to Pearl, begging her to come back. Pearl is eventually reunited with her old love, Z.G. Li – they sleep together, which makes her finally able to forgive her sister for having an affair with him, and opens her up to fall in love with one of the other boarders, a former professor named Dun. In the end, Joy and Pearl are reunited and manage to get to Hong Kong, where they are able to travel back to America. May meets them in Hong Kong – with her reunion with Z.G., and Pearl's newfound love with Dun, the sisters are able to forgive each other for all of the hostility they held towards each other over the years regarding their respective romances, and travel – together – back home to America.
Best part of story, including ending:
This story, combined with Shanghai Girls, formed an epic and extremely fascinating story about communist China and the differences between Chinese and Chinese-American culture. This story in particular, with its culture clash in the form of Joy returning to a homeland she had never visited, made for some really interesting themes to get caught up in. The structure is great.
Best scene in story:
I think the conclusion, when May and Z.G. reunite, is really great. It is subtle and ends simply with them seeing each other, alongside Pearl, Dun, Joy and her daughter Samantha -- but we as the audience know that everything is going to work out and they are going to go home to safety and freedom in America. It ties up all loose ends very well.
Opinion about the main character:
Joy is an interesting and relatable character because she is young and impulsive, as almost anyone her age would be. However, seeing her grow and realize that her opinions may have been misinformed shows that she is human and capable of great growth. The brash adolescent at the beginning of the novel is quite a contrast to the mature, resilient mother she becomes at the end of the book.