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  • Writer's pictureAlison Conigliaro-Hubbard

2024 Book Reviews: Lady Tan's Circle of Women

I just finished my 2nd book of 2024.  The books I choose may not all be stereotypical books on leadership, but I choose each carefully because I believe there will be valuable nuggets of learning that can expand my lens.


For early February, I chose one of historical fiction, Lady Tan’s Circle of Women, by Lisa See.  I don’t do a lot of fiction, but when I do, it often has some basis on a real story, where the author has done a great deal of research to honor the people involved or the subject-matter.


This extraordinary story was inspired by the true life of Tan Yunxian – a woman born in 15th century China, who became a doctor of women and girls. It begins when Yunxian is age 8, sharing her journey in a society steeped in tradition – from pains of foot binding and its impact on the way women are perceived, to the roles of men versus women, arranged marriages, roles in society…


Woven throughout the story we experience the foundational theme of balance in the universe, Yin/Yang – a personal favorite topic these days.  And as someone with regular practices in both Eastern and Western medicine and philosophy on life, I found the thread in the book about the value of balance/harmony to be thought provoking.  It made me want to seek out more information about this topic to support my own vision: a world in which people are living and experiencing their lives to the fullest with joy, connection, wellness and ownership.


The book addresses the quietly wise nature of women, and the weight too often bared by women as underdogs even with so much to offer.  It’s a story of determination, responsibility, motherhood, duty, honor.


The book addresses the loneliness of leadership at times; and it addresses friendship.


It addresses the impact of stress on our wellness and overcoming the most significant of life events.


It addresses the need to walk through the most challenging of storms (often internal) to see the magic: “No mud. No lotus.”


It addresses what it means to take a stand for a greater outcome, even when it’s not the norm.


It addresses the blind spots that can bring undesirable results from leading with ego.


And in one of my favorite passages, this amazing story speaks to REAL beauty: Don’t you know that those heavenly flowers marks are what make you so beautiful?  Totally perfection is not so desirable.”  I am sure that so many of us can find value in that as we live in a world where we are placing too much value on the homogenous and robot-like need to ‘keep up with’.


I have been so inspired by this book and highly recommend it to anyone who considers themselves a deep thinker – seeing the words, but also able to consider the small and bigger meaning behind them.






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