Cathy Song's poem, "Lost Sister," conveys the restrictions on freedom and identity experienced by two Chinese sisters, one who remains at home in China and the other who immigrates to America. The tones in the poem are questioning, sentimental and a bit sad, as the poem's narrator addresses limits imposed on her as a woman, while acknowledging that, though the sister has more freedoms, she is disconnected from her identity.
The poem explores the conflict between tradition and independence, examining the ways culture binds and confines people, yet also connects people to a sense of security and identity. One sister in the poem suffers the literal limitations placed on females, as with the practice of feet binding, and such figurative limitations as the practice of women's roles being confined to the household. The other sister escapes these limitations as she migrates to America, where women are granted more freedoms. However, the sister experiences a different set of identity issues and limitations on her power and independence, as she must navigate a foreign world and its cultural barriers.
"Lost Sister" was included in the 1983 collection "Picture Bride," Song's first published volume of poetry. This book earned Song the Yale Younger Poets Award for 1983, as well as a nomination for a National Book Critics Circle Award.