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Book Buddy ! > Everything I never told you ~~ June 2017

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message 1: by Alias Reader (last edited May 26, 2017 08:00PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments What's this ? A Buddy Read ! All are welcome and encouraged to join in.

Book Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng Everything I Never Told You

Author Celeste Ng Celeste Ng
Author Bio
• Birth—ca. 1980-81
• Raised—Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Shaker Heights, Ohio, USA
• Education—Harvard University; M.F.A., Michigan University
• Awards—Hopwood Award; Pushcart Prize
• Currently—lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts


Celeste Ng [pronounced "ing"]grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. She attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan), where she won the Hopwood Award.

Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere, and she is the recipient of the Pushcart Prize. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and son.

When ? We will be reading the book the whole month of June, 1017. Read at your own pace.

Where ? The entire discussion will take place in this thread.

*** Spoiler Alert !
The book contains 12 chapters. PLEASE put the chapter # at the top of your post and the words SPOILER if you are discussing a major plot element.

Book details
The book is available as an eBook, paper book & audiobook
The hardcover is: 292 pages

Synopsis:
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . .

So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair.

Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage.

Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.

A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another. (From the publisher.)


message 2: by Alias Reader (last edited May 26, 2017 07:31PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments Discussion Questions -- May contain spoilers !


1. Discuss the relationships between Nath, Lydia, and Hannah. How do the siblings both understand and mystify one another?

2. Why do you think Lydia is the favorite child of James and Marilyn? How does this pressure affect Lydia, and what kind of impact do you think it has on Nath and Hannah? Do you think it is more difficult for Lydia to be the favorite, or for Nath and Hannah, who are often overlooked by their parents?

3. “So part of him wanted to tell Nath that he knew: what it was like to be teased, what it was like to never fit in. The other part of him wanted to shake his son, to slap him. To shape him into something different.... When Marilyn asked what happened, James said merely, with a wave of the hand, 'Some kids teased him at the pool yesterday. He needs to learn to take a joke.’”

4. How did you react to the “Marco Polo” pool scene with James and Nath? What do you think of James’s decision?

5. Discuss a situation in which you’ve felt like an outsider. How do the members of the Lee family deal with being measured against stereotypes and others’ perceptions?

6. What is the meaning of the novel’s title? To whom do the “I” and “you” refer?

7. What would have happened if Lydia had reached the dock? Do you think she would have been able to change her parents’ views and expectations of her?

8. This novel says a great deal about the influence our parents can have on us. Do you think the same issues will affect the next generation of Lees? How did your parents influence your childhood?

9. “It struck her then, as if someone had said it aloud: her mother was dead, and the only thing worth remembering about her, in the end, was that she cooked. Marilyn thought uneasily of her own life, of hours spent making breakfasts, serving dinners, packing lunches into neat paper bags.”

10. Discuss the relationship Marilyn and her mother have to cooking and their roles as stay-at-home mothers. Do you think one is happier or more satisfied?

11. The footprint on the ceiling brings Nath and Lydia closer when they are young, and later, Hannah and James discover it together and laugh. What other objects bring the characters closer together or drive them further apart?

12. There’s so much that the characters keep to themselves. What do you wish they had shared with one another? Do you think an ability to better express themselves would have changed the outcome of the book?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)


message 3: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments May Contain spoilers !


Author Q&A

What compelled you to write this book?

My stories almost always begin with images—in this case, the image of a young girl falling into deep water. I started writing to figure out how she got there: Was she pushed? Did she slip? Did she jump? As I wrote my way into the book, I discovered it was a story about not just the girl but about her family, her family’s history, and everything in her life that had led her to this point and about whether (and how) her family would be able to go on. What seemed like the end of the story actually turned out to be the center.

The discovery of Lydia’s death spurs so many questions for her family. How did you approach writing about loss and grief?

When you lose someone you love, especially suddenly, there’s immense regret and immense self-doubt. It’s impossible not to ask yourself questions: Could you have saved them in some way? Could you, by leaving five minutes later or arriving a day earlier or saying just the right words, have changed what happened? Inevitably, you reconsider and reassess the relationship you had with that person, and it can be hardest if that relationship was strained. James, Marilyn, Nath, and Hannah each feel a lot of guilt about their relationships with Lydia—and the ways that, deep down, they know they’ve pressured, disappointed, or failed her—and that complicates their reactions to her death. Any act of writing is an act of empathy: You try to imagine yourself into another person’s mind and skin. I tried to ask myself the questions the characters would have asked themselves.

The relationships between the siblings—Nath, Lydia, and Hannah—are immediately recognizable and so well drawn. They love one another, but they also get angry, jealous, and confused and take it out on one another. Can you speak to their dynamics? Did you draw on your own childhood?

Sibling relationships are fascinating: You have the same parents and grow up alongside each other, yet more often than not, siblings are incredibly different from one another and have incredibly different experiences even within the same family. You share so much that you feel you should understand one another completely, yet of course there’s also enough distance between you that that’s almost never the case. It gets even more complicated when one sibling is clearly the favorite in the family. The family constellation can get really skewed when one star shines much brighter than the rest.

My own sister is eleven years older than I am. Because she was so much older, we never really fought; I actually think our relationship was stronger because we weren’t close in age. At the same time, though, I missed her terribly when I was seven and she went off to college—that informed Lydia’s feelings of abandonment when Nath heads to Harvard. And I always idolized my sister; there’s definitely an aspect of that in Hannah’s relationship with Lydia.

You began writing the book before you had your son. How did becoming a parent affect your approach to your characters and their stories, especially James and Marilyn?

Even before I had children, I often found myself focusing on parents and children in my fiction. Yourrelationship with your parents is maybe the most fundamental and the most powerful, even morethan friendship or romantic love. It’s the first relationship you ever have, and it’s probably the greatestsingle influence on your outlook and the kind of person you become. Most of us spend our lives eithertrying to live up to our parents’ ideals or actively rebelling against them.
When I started writing the novel—having never been a parent—I definitely identified morewith the children, especially Lydia. After my son was born, though, I became much more sympatheticto Marilyn and James. I started to understand how deeply parents want the best for their childrenand how that desire can sometimes blind you to what actually is best. This isn’t to say that I “switchedsides,” only that becoming a parent made my perspective more balanced, I think, and made the bookmore nuanced. Now I identify with the parents at least as much as I identify with the children.

The book is set in Ohio in the 1970s. You grew up in Pennsylvania and Ohio—how did your time there inform the book?

Both of the small suburbs I grew up in—first outside Pittsburgh, then outside Cleveland—had a small-town feel. My first elementary school was tiny, one of those schools where the gym is also the cafeteria and the auditorium, and on my street the neighbor kids all played together. But more than that, I remember a distinct sense of restlessness in the air while I was growing up, a feeling that if you wanted an exciting or important or interesting life, you needed to escape. Pittsburgh in the 1980s and Cleveland in the early 1990s were depressed and depressing places: a lot of closed factories, a lot of tension and unemployment, a lot of rust. So I knew the kind of insulated, almost suffocated feeling teenagers like Nath and Lydia—and even adults like James and Marilyn—might have, the feeling that the place you’re in is too small.

Through all members of the Lee family, you write touchingly and perceptively about feeling like an outsider and being measured against stereotypes and others’ perceptions. Can you discuss your personal experience and how you approached these themes in the book?

My parents came to the U.S. from Hong Kong and moved straight into the Midwest: Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio. Most of the time I was growing up, we were virtually the only Asians in the community. In my school in Pittsburgh, for instance, I was one of two nonwhite girls, and the only Asian, in all four grades. Like most Asian Americans, my family experienced some outright discrimination: Once, neighborhood kids put cherry bombs in our mailbox; another time, a man got in our faces while we were waiting at a bus stop, spitting at us and telling us, “Go back to Vietnam or Korea or wherever the hell you came from.”

More insidious than those moments of outright hostility, though, and maybe more powerful are the constant low-level reminders that you’re different. Many of us feel different in some way, but it’s really jarring when one of your differences is obvious at a glance—other people can tell you’re different simply by looking at you. (It’s hard to explain just how strange that is if you’ve never experienced it. My husband and I had talked about it many times, but he didn’t really know what it felt like until we went to Hong Kong and he—a very tall white man—was surrounded by thousands of Asians.) Even when you feel like you belong, other people’s reactions—even stares and offhand remarks—can make you feel that you don’t, startlingly often. I drew on that to imagine the experiences of James, Lydia, Nath, and Hannah, or at least their reactions to those experiences. In terms of actual encounters, I didn’t have to imagine much: They all came from life, from the girls who throw rocks at James’s car, to the people who speak to you slower and louder as if you might not understand English, to the woman in the grocery store who proudly identifies the children as Chinese before pulling her eyes into slits.

In the novel, though, I didn’t want to explore just racial difference. There are all kinds of ways of feeling like an outsider. For example, my mother is a chemist and my sister is a scientist—both women in heavily male-dominated fields—and I often feel like an outsider or an impostor myself: Am I smart enough/experienced enough/insert-adjective-here enough? All of the characters grapple with some version of that feeling.

Marilyn is deeply conflicted about being a homemaker and wanting to finish her degree and achieving more in her professional life. What did you seek to explore through her desires and decisions?

This is a long-standing question that most women face: How do you balance a family and a professional life of your own? I struggle with this myself, as does every other woman I know, and Marilyn’s situation is a magnified version. It’s striking to remember that in her time—just a generation ago—she had so many fewer paths open to her. But even with more options, we haven’t gotten this figured out yet, either. We’re still actively wrestling with the question of balance and women’s roles. Look at the tremendous interest in Lean In and the uproar over Anne-Marie Slaughter’s essay in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” Recently a Princeton alumna wrote an essay telling young female grads that the most important thing to do in college was to find a husband. Many women were outraged—but she’s also just published a book. The debate over what women can and should do goes on.

You grew up in a family of scientists. What compelled you to become a writer? How did that shape how you approach writing?

I was always interested in stories—reading them, making them up, telling them to my parents and friends. There’s an argument for nature over nurture right there! But actually, there’s more overlap between science and writing than you’d expect. Scientists are really interested in figuring out how the world works and why things happen the way they do. A science experiment is really a what-if: “Hmm, what if I put these things together under these conditions?” I do the same thing in my writing, only I do it with people on the page: “What if this family was in this situation?”

What does the title Everything I Never Told You mean to you?

The title is actually an echo of one of the last lines of the book. Everything I Never Told You refers, on the one hand, to the secrets that the members of the Lee family keep from one another—all the things they lock inside because they’re afraid to say them or they’re ashamed to say them. But it also refers to all the things they don’t say by accident, so to speak—the things they forget to say because they don’t seem important. After Lydia’s death, each member of her family thinks back to the last time they saw her and what they’d have said if they knew it was the last time. The things that go unsaid are often the things that eat at you—whether because you didn’t get to have your say or because the other person never got to hear you and really wanted to.


message 4: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments YouTube
Author


Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUVZv...


message 5: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments Author at a book store reading

Celeste Ng, "Everything I Never Told You"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQUtt...


message 6: by Alias Reader (last edited May 26, 2017 08:00PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments Author TV interview

"Everything I Never Told You"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zu0o...


message 7: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9742 comments Plenty of material on this one. Thanks for the good start.


message 8: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments You're welcome !


message 9: by Francesca M (new)

Francesca M | 129 comments I started the book yesterday and I am enjoying it really much!!! I just finished chapter 2.


message 10: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments I started it also yesterday. I read about 30 pages while I was at the laundromat.

I like the writing and the story is engaging.

I'm glad you are enjoying it, Francesca.


message 11: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9742 comments You both have encouraged me to start today!


message 12: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments I am finding the theme of alienation and not fitting in to be interesting.

I had company so didn't get much reading in. I hope to read some tomorrow.


message 13: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9742 comments I jumped right in and am beginning Chapter 8 tonight. The writing is engaging and the story well presented. At this point, however, i'm not sure what to think about where it is heading.

From chapter 2, i believe, i learned the term "paper son", which is new to me. I can only imagine the stress this would cause an immigrant.


message 14: by Francesca M (new)

Francesca M | 129 comments madrano wrote: "I jumped right in and am beginning Chapter 8 tonight. The writing is engaging and the story well presented. At this point, however, i'm not sure what to think about where it is heading.

From chapt..."


I'm at chapter 7, it's really hard to put this book down, I have to force myself to do it because my exam is upcoming and got still lots to do for it :(.

I love the writing, the alternation of present events with the past is a good strategy to get to know the characters and the reasons behind their behavior. The lack of communication in this book make me feel so frustrated, everyone is living a life completely different from what the rest of the family believes just because they don't talk to each other. Every complication became something that can't be spoken about and have to be forgotten.

It seems all the character are so passive-aggressive too, the sad thing is the events are not totally alien from what could happen in real life.

Like you Deb I have no idea where the book is heading, but so far I feel the title choice was excellent!


message 15: by Alias Reader (last edited Jun 05, 2017 03:58PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments madrano wrote:From chapter 2, i believe, i learned the term "paper son", which is new to me. I can only imagine the stress this would cause an immigrant

I know I read about this in another book. However, I can't recall which book.

Wow deb, you sure do read quickly !

I'm a slow poke as I am reading on the 3 quick stops to my gym.


message 16: by Bobbie (new)

Bobbie (bobbie572002) | 1084 comments I made the mistake of thinking that this book was available at my library and didn't have to request it. So last week didn't do it. But now, today, it is waiting. I am anxious to pick it up and get started.


message 17: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (cinnabarb) | 2683 comments I think this is a cautionary story about parents who try to fulfill their dreams/ambitions through their children. In this case, the pressure was too much for Lydia, who just couldn't cope.

And all the attention on the 'golden child' made the other kids, Nathan and Hannah, feel like they were less important. Especially young Hannah, who felt almost invisible.

I liked the book which is very well written.


message 18: by Julie (new)

Julie (readerjules) | 1208 comments Alias Reader wrote: "madrano wrote:From chapter 2, i believe, i learned the term "paper son", which is new to me. I can only imagine the stress this would cause an immigrant

I know I read about this in another book. However, I can't recall which book. ..."


Me too. Maybe Shanghai Girls? We both read it.


message 19: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments That could be the book, Julie ! Thanks.


message 20: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9742 comments I agree, Francesca, the title says it all, the lack of communication is sad. We had a Very Rainy Day Monday, which was also a bank holiday, so i actually finished the book. My eyes are telling me i might be too old for that all-day reading. Bummer.

Who do you think the "I" of the title is, though?

What did you think of the day the parents met? It's as though Marilyn waited her entire life for that moment and went for it. Was that healthy? A good move? I'm a bit younger than her but the idea of women going to college seemed to far too many as though it was a husband-search. My husband has told people that is the case with me but i correct him immediately. It was the last thing on my mind. And there ya go!

I think Ng made certain we understood M's mom's reaction by pointing out the future of the Loving couple in Virginia. Still, it was disappointing to read.


message 21: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments *** Spoiler Alert !

The book contains 12 chapters. PLEASE put the chapter # at the top of your post and the words SPOILER if you are discussing a major plot element.

Thanks !


message 22: by Francesca M (new)

Francesca M | 129 comments madrano wrote: "I agree, Francesca, the title says it all, the lack of communication is sad. We had a Very Rainy Day Monday, which was also a bank holiday, so i actually finished the book. My eyes are telling me i..."

I finished the book too last night, even if it was really late I couldn’t put it down.

SPOILERS

I wondered through the whole book if the ‘I’ was specifically directed to one of the characters Deb, but I came to the conclusion that all of them had something never said but that should have had spoken out at the right time.

I think the choice of the author to call the book ‘Things I never told you’ rather then something more generic like ‘Thinks unspoken’ was really clever. The book keeps shifting from a character point of view to the other, although told by an omniscient narrator, and the individuality of each person involved is reflected even in the title, like if it was a statement or a thought applying to each of the separately. That’s the way I interpret it, but just my opinion after all...

About the parents meeting, I had the same impression of you. I mean all this big dream given up without second thoughts? Ok being in love, but why give up the doctor career if it really was so important for her? She always wanted to be different, so was having a Chinese husband enough to be a rebel in her mother eyes? In many instance I was extremely annoyed by Marylin, I can’t stand people that make decisions and after go along all their lives regretting them. There are so many ways 'to get there’ or make things right, if you really want something you don’t give up but fight for it! Achievements are never easy but that’s life for everyone, the 'crocodile tears’ never make me feel sorry. Was it really necessary running away from home years after to go back to college? Could have she not just try to discussing with her husband and find a solution? At the end she always seems to go for the most radical but also easier route, give up something and then regret it!

The last chapters thou make me fall in love, the pages where M find her old cooking book and little Hannah appears on the door step were marvelous. I was worried about Lydia’s death, as depending on the out come could have ruined the whole book, but instead made me like it even more.

I gave it 5 stars in the end because it does not happen often that I like the writing, the book structure, the story and how the characters are defined. This book really got me involved, either because made me angry and emotional. A brilliant debut novel, I think I will read some more from Ng in the future :)


message 23: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9742 comments Apologies for forgetting to make note of Spoiler Alert. I am one who really abhors spoilers, which is worse.

*****SPOILER ALERT FOR ENTIRE BOOK*****

Francesca, you liked the book more than i did, although i didn't dislike it. Your comments about what bothered you rang true for me, as far as the dreams and execution of intent go. I suppose, however, one could say that characteristic passed on to the next generation, when we get to the last chapter or two.

Your thoughts on the "I" in the title sound right, too. It could stand as true for each family member. Maybe not Hannah (my favorite character), as she is young and still learning.

BIGGEST SPOILER!! NO, I'll just hide it. (view spoiler)


message 24: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments Thanks for the spoiler alerts. It really is helpful not only for us who currently who have not finished but since these buddy read threads are never deleted the warnings will help others who come to the thread later on.


message 25: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments Francesca M wrote:
I finished the book too last night, even if it was really late I couldn’t put it down.


I'm so glad the book was a winner for you. I selected this book for my library group. It's not easy to pick a book you haven't read for a group. I usually read a bunch of reviews on Amazon and also pick something that sounds like something I would like to read. Also a book that will support a good discussion.


message 26: by Alias Reader (last edited Jun 08, 2017 04:58AM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments Page 60 of the hardcover.

I noted in the book the term oriental was used.
For example, page 60, "Oriental girl found drowned in pond."

I know that is not an accepted term today. I googled and found this interesting article from the LA Times.

I had no idea a law was passed about this.
"It is now politically incorrect to use the word “Oriental,” and the admonition has the force of law: President Obama recently signed a bill prohibiting use of the term in all federal documents. Rep. Grace Meng, the New York congresswoman who sponsored the legislation, exulted that “at long last this insulting and outdated term will be gone for good.”

Here is the article

The term 'Oriental' is outdated, but is it racist?
http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/...


The questions is also discussed on Quora.

Why is it offensive to call an Asian person "Oriental?"
https://www.quora.com/Why-is-it-offen...


message 27: by Julie (new)

Julie (readerjules) | 1208 comments Alias Reader wrote: "Page 60 of the hardcover.

I noted in the book the term oriental was used.
For example, page 60, "Oriental girl found drowned in pond."

I know that is not an accepted term today. I googled and f..."


?? I have never heard of anyone being upset by oriental...


message 28: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments The term jumped off the page for me. I live in a neighborhood that has become mostly Asian. I think most are from China. I've never heard anyone use the term Oriental.


message 29: by Francesca M (last edited Jun 09, 2017 03:49AM) (new)

Francesca M | 129 comments Alias Reader wrote: "Francesca M wrote:
I finished the book too last night, even if it was really late I couldn’t put it down.

I'm so glad the book was a winner for you. I selected this book for my library group. It..."


Always great suggestions from you Alias. Thanks for proposing interesting books to the group all the times :).


message 30: by madrano (new)

madrano | 9742 comments I like the way you put that, Francesca. Alias, it would be quite challenging to select a book you haven't read. Nice choice here because, as you note, there is much for discussion.

And would you believe i hadn't even considered future readers looking at our posts? This despite the fact i realize you point folks reading such books to the threads. Bad Deb!

I've heard the term Oriental used often by people who don't know any Asians. And those who were alive during WWII. Then i've seen those who go the other way, calling the rugs sold as "Oriental Rugs", "Asian Rugs", which seems weird to me. I was unaware of the legislation, however,


message 31: by Francesca M (new)

Francesca M | 129 comments madrano wrote: "Apologies for forgetting to make note of Spoiler Alert. I am one who really abhors spoilers, which is worse.

*****SPOILER ALERT FOR ENTIRE BOOK*****

Francesca, you liked the book more than i did,..."


SPOILER

I see what you mean Deb regarding the males careers. Still, do you feel James has a successful career? He always underline how the students level in his college it's really low and the institution does not have much recognition against the other US colleges, such as Harvard, where he always wanted to teach but never got. Also, would Nath really going to Harvard after Lydia's death? Not sure how it works in US, but he's missed a lot of school days and surely exams after his sister passed away, in Europe I'm pretty sure it would not be accepted because of that. That's why while reading I though 'this is it even Nath missed his change...'

Still like you say, it could be read as sexist, depending on interpretation. Maybe Hannah will be the one making the big jump, I love her all the way through, and definitely seems to be a bright and sensible girls...finishing the book I liked to think that a positive future was waiting for her :).


message 32: by Julie (new)

Julie (readerjules) | 1208 comments Alias Reader wrote: "The term jumped off the page for me. I live in a neighborhood that has become mostly Asian. I think most are from China. I've never heard anyone use the term Oriental."

It is not a common term to use when talking about people (more common for rugs and restaurants!). I think it was used more often years ago. Like the first link you posted said, it is outdated. But it never occurred to me it could be considered racist by anyone. I never heard anyone say it in an angry or demeaning way.


message 33: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments Page 40 of hardcover edition

"It was the story of nearly every Chinese immigrant from the time of Chester A. Arthur to the end of he Second World War."

I wasn't sure what the President Arthur reference was so I looked it up.

WIKI
The Chinese Exclusion Act was a United States federal law signed by President Chester A. Arthur on May 6, 1882, prohibiting all immigration of Chinese laborers. The act followed the Angell Treaty of 1880, a set of revisions to the US–China Burlingame Treaty of 1868 that allowed the US to suspend Chinese immigration. The act was initially intended to last for 10 years, but was renewed in 1892 with the Geary Act and made permanent in 1902. The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first law implemented to prevent a specific ethnic group from immigrating to the United States. It was repealed by the Magnuson Act on December 17, 1943.

for the rest of the article
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese...

I thought this was interesting and given the current proposed travel ban.


message 34: by Alias Reader (last edited Jun 09, 2017 08:27PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments page 51 hardcover edition

"It was 1958, in Virginia, in half the country, their wedding would break the law."

I knew there were these laws. However, I didn't realize they were still in effect still 1958! I was curious when they were finally repealed. So to the internet I went. :)

WIKI
In the United States, anti-miscegenation laws (also known as miscegenation laws) were state laws passed by individual states to prohibit miscegenation, nowadays more commonly referred to as interracial marriage and interracial sex.

Anti-miscegenation laws were a part of American law in some States since before the United States was established and remained so until ruled unconstitutional in 1967 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia.

For full article
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-mi...


message 35: by Madrano (new)

Madrano (madran) | 3732 comments The book really opens our eyes as far as immigrants go, doesn't it? I knew about the Arthur era bill, i think from an article about the present situation. And I must admit that i thought anti-miscegenation laws continued past '67, so that news is new to me.

Julie, you make a point, as far hearing anyone used "oriental" as a slur during name calling. However, i have heard numerous Asians use "Asian" when someone in a group has used the word "oriental". It's a gentle correction. Usually the person who used the latter word changes to Asian for the rest of the discussion. All so polite!

******SPOILER FOR ENTIRE BOOK******

I cannot say whether Nath went to Harvard after the tragedy. However, we do learn he went into space, which was his long term goal, as it was mentioned he thought of Lydia while looking at earth from space. (Sorry but the library took back its e-copy of the book. I think it was in one of the concluding paragraphs.

True, the father had a disappointing career but he achieved his graduation, which was more than Marilyn did. Maybe a better way to phrase it would be that both males managed to succeed in goals they set, although with disappointing results? Meanwhile neither Marilyn nor Lydia did.

Which gives the reader hope for Hannah, particularly given changes the family must have undergone. Like you, i believe Hannah will succeed, making her own choices, which will be supported by her family.


message 36: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments Just heard about this on NPR this morning. It's the 50th anniversary.

Loving is a 2016 American historical drama film which tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the plaintiffs in the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated state laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

For full article
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loving_...

Here is the NPR story I heard this morning.
http://www.npr.org/2017/06/12/5320616...


message 37: by Madrano (new)

Madrano (madran) | 3732 comments Thanks for the links, Alias. I believe the movie was nominated for some Oscars but don't think they won their categories. I hope to see it one day.


message 38: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments Tonight I finished the book. I liked the writing a lot and thought it was well done. I gave it a 4/5 GR rating.

I'll go back over the thread now to read the spoiler posts that I skipped.


message 39: by Alias Reader (last edited Jun 18, 2017 06:36PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments Francesca M wrote:Every complication became something that can't be spoken about and have to be forgotten. ."

Well stated, Francesca.

It seems they all have secrets, fears and frustrations.


message 40: by Alias Reader (last edited Jun 18, 2017 07:30PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments *** Entire book comment


Barbara wrote: "Especially young Hannah, who felt almost invisible. "

I think I felt the most sorry for her. The experience of being ignored and feeling that others are indifferent to you is one of the most painful and wounding feelings. I can't help but think this will have a very negative affect on her when she grows up.

I see from everyone's comments I am in the minority on this. I hope I am wrong. Maybe the ending signaled a change in the family dynamic and that will help her to overcome her childhood experiences.


message 41: by Alias Reader (last edited Jun 18, 2017 07:10PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments madrano wrote:
Who do you think the "I" of the title is, though?.."


** comment for entire book to follow


I don't know if we all have the same cover. But mine in the also has a ripped up notebook page that says, "Also ... and don't"
Above that it looks like ssi comma

I am guessing the I is Lydia.

The one expression of "don't" I recall from the book is Lydia saying to Hannah, don't smile if you don't want to. When she was saying be authentic to Hannah. Don't listen to books like How to Win Friends and Influence People suggested.

On the other hand Lydia's diaries were all blank. So maybe it's not her.


message 42: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments ****Spoiler for entire book to follow.


Francesca M wrote: "I wondered through the whole book if the ‘I’ was specifically directed to one of the characters Deb, but I came to the conclusion that all of them had something never said but that should have had spoken out at the right time."

Francesca, I think you nailed it ! Your explanation fits perfectly.


message 43: by Alias Reader (last edited Jun 18, 2017 07:37PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments ******spoiler for entire book to follow

Francesca M wrote: About the parents meeting, I had the same impression of you. I mean all this big dream given up without second thoughts? Ok being in love, but why give up the doctor career if it really was so important for her?

She planned on going back to school. It was only a delay in her dream.

wiki
Marilyn intended to go back and continue her studies to become a doctor after her son, Nathan, was born, but after a second pregnancy with Lydia she remained a home-maker for eight years.

Also to be fair to Marilyn, we have to keep things in context. They met in 1957 and soon married. Lydia died in 1977. I don't recall Lydia's age but she had to be born in the late 50s or early 60s. So Marilyn was fighting an uphill battle to be a dr. Especially with two small kids at home. Though it was not an impossible dream as we see when she comes across that female dr. at the hospital.


message 44: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments madrano wrote: "
*****SPOILER ALERT FOR ENTIRE BOOK*****

BIGGEST SPOILER!!
What about the fact that only the males in the family achieve their goals? The dad has his career, the so, we learned, will go to space but mom fails and Lydia's execution killed her. I was annoyed by this, although it helped make her point. "


No. James experienced racism at his job. He was passed over for the promotion.


message 45: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments ******spoiler for entire book to follow

What did you think of Jack ? I didn't see that twist in the story.
Another person who has secrets. And in that era it was not acceptable to be gay. I really felt sorry for him.

Here is an interesting article from the ACLU on the topic.

https://www.aclu.org/other/why-sodomy...


message 46: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments **** Spoiler for entire book to follow

Francesca M wrote: Was it really necessary running away from home years after to go back to college? Could have she not just try to discussing with her husband and find a solution? ."

I agree. Though I guess than there wouldn't have been a story to tell.

I think it was very selfish and cruel not to even leave a note. That left James thinking that she left because because he was Asian and that she finally agreed with her mom that their marriage was a mistake.

Marilyn abandoning them was a major catalyst in the families dysfunctional decent into more secrets and words not spoken.

Lydia says this when she says this at the end when she was trying to figure out when it all started to go wrong. Her fear that her mother would abandon her again led her to say yes to everything Marilyn wanted.


message 47: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments ***** Spoiler comment for entire book.

I felt that Marilyn was selfishly living out her own dream to be a dr through Lydia. And she was so blinded by this desire she couldn't see that it wasn't Lydia's dream at all.

However, on another level, maybe she wanted Lydia to be someone. Be remembered. And she will be as the omniscient narrator notes that on the next to last page that Nath will think of her at every important event in his life.

Marilyn--
“It struck her then, as if someone had said it aloud: her mother was dead, and the only thing worth remembering about her, in the end, was that she cooked. Marilyn thought uneasily of her own life, of hours spent making breakfasts, serving dinners, packing lunches into neat paper bags.”

Than again she basically ignored her husband and two other children as she poured all her dreams, desires and energy into Lydia. Sad.


message 48: by Alias Reader (last edited Jun 18, 2017 08:14PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments Spoiler for entire book

Major Spoiler to follow !!!




(view spoiler)


message 49: by Alias Reader (last edited Jun 18, 2017 08:19PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 17158 comments Did you notice the role food plays in the novel?

Why couldn't James provide a basic meal for the children when M. left ? PB&J ? Come on. I think a college grad could figure out a few basic meals. Why do you think he didn't?

And what about the passive/aggressive actions of M. upon return and refusing to cook a meal. Did she so associate a nice home-cooked meal with her mom that she couldn't bring herself to provide a decent basic meal for her husband and children? I'm not saying she need to stick herself in the kitchen all day. However I don't think a healthy basic home-cooked meal is too much to ask for.


message 50: by Madrano (new)

Madrano (madran) | 3732 comments I'm glad you liked the book, Alias. We'll be interested in learning what your book group thinks of it.

****SPOILER to the entire BOOK******

Your comment about the empty diaries is an excellent one, Alias. I had forgotten it by the time we finished but that should have spoken volumes about this family. It's such a simple thing to tell your folks to not waste their money on a gift you don't use but Lydia didn't. Of course we realize now it was all part of her desire to be the perfect child so her mom wouldn't leave again.

The food issue is another odd feature. Your point about not wanting her life to be what she considered her mother's life to be is a fine one. What a curious adjustment for the family.

When i mentioned that the females didn't achieve their goals i didn't mean that the men's lives were great, only that they managed to make a hallmark in their lives that females didn't. I agree, the father's career was not a smooth or pleasant one. His disappointments probably bothered him quite a bit but he had accomplishment of which he could be proud. Marilyn seemed to think her left had no proud achievements.

Again, just saying these things to one another would have provided such salve for their concerns.


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