2020 One County, One Book: Lisa See's "The Island of Sea Women"

Cover of Lisa See's 'The Island of Sea Women' showing Asian women dressed for sea diving

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

Ventura County Library is proud to announce its third annual One County, One Book community reading program.

This year’s One County, One Book program features Lisa See's The Island of Sea Women. To participate in One County, One Book, pick up a copy of The Island of Sea Women from one of our 12 library branches using walk up holds pick up.  

More about Lisa See     

Author Event

VCL Foundation in partnership with CSUCI presented: Author Talk with Lisa See 

Companion Titles

Companion titles recommended by VCL staff

Titles suggested as companion reads by CLU Professor Michaela Reaves -- to enjoy along with Lisa See's The Island of Sea Women

  • The Red Queen by Margaret Drabble (2004)
  • Please Look After Mom by Kyong-Suk Sin (2012)
  • Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982: A Novel by  Cho Nam-Joo (2015)
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (2017)
  • White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht (2018)
  • If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha (2020)
  • The Living Reed: A Novel of Korea by Pearl Buck (1963)

CLU Event Recordings

CONVERSATIONS: First Account Korean Oral Histories & Korean Folk Music - a Cal Lutheran faculty film

Understanding 20th Century Korean History - Film/lecture by David Nelson, Ph.D., Cal Lutheran University [Note: This video could be watched all at one time, but we recommend watching it in segments. Questions about the content of this video may be directed to David Nelson, Ph.D. at  dnelson@callutheran.edu]

Discussion Questions

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

1) While the haenyeo held a certain amount of power in their society, how did they remain powerless in terms of gender equality and what did you think about this? Did it surprise you? How did things change over time?

2) Why do you think See starts off the novel in 3rd person (present day) and then shifts to first, having us get background from just one of the two friends whose lives were entwined?  Does this story structure work well?

3) In what way do the rubbings collected by the young friends bind them to each other?  Were you surprised when Young-sook’s daughter asked for them?

4) See’s story stresses forgiveness.  Do you think forgiveness is important and necessary on both personal and societal levels?  What do you think is forgivable and what not?

5) How well did you think See blended the story of Young-sook and Mi-ja’s friendship with information about the haenyeo, the Japanese occupation of Japan, WWII, and the 4.3 incident? 

6) Mid-way through the book, Young-sook says, “I understood the sea to be dangerous, but what was happening on dry land confused and scared me …. Those who had been killed or injured were all Korean…” How does her insight resonate today?

7) Many traditional sayings are used by the women to explain life including Fall down eight times, stand up nine. What were your favorites? What did they tell you about the women’s character?

8) Does modernization always bring good changes to Jeju?  What traditions do you think need replacing, and which not?

9) Why did Clara’s mother have her daughter keep approaching Young-sook after she showed her the photograph mentioned in the first chapter?  Why did she stop approaching Young-sook herself? 

10) Do you think the book should be referred to as women’s fiction, as See’s books often are?  What are its broader appeals?  Is gender labeling of fiction detrimental to how it’s perceived? 

Bonus question:

11)  If you have read other works by See, how do they compare to The Island of the Sea Women?  What is it about her works, do you think, that appeals to you and other readers?


See past One County, One Book titles