I finally finished TJLC and spent the weekend thinking about what to write. Definitely a good first pick.
First Line: The old woman remembered a swan she had bought many years ago in Shanghai for a foolish sum.
First Impression: I remember being assigned the book in high school, but not fully grasping it. It was during my family’s first years in the U.S. I was quickly absorbing American English and the culture that went with it, but struggled many times to understand various concepts we were taught in school. I did remember it as a book written by a first-generation American and being thoroughly impressed by someone who could take pages out of their own experience to write a compelling, multi-layered story. One question stuck with me throughout the years: What would this story look like from my own vantage point?
Synopsis: 4 mothers, 4 daughters. 3 mothers’ voices, 4 daughters’. The mothers as Chinese immigrants to the United States and their first-generation Chinese-American daughters. Various stories woven together, internal dialogues mostly. TJLC struggles with the concept of Destiny. If it is our destiny, then is it worth fighting, fighting for our voices to be heard, fighting to change what we see as inevitable? Do we fight Passivity or let History run its course? Is Truth truth because we believe that it is? Could it be possible for us to hold a perception of the truth for years, till we find out one day that we were wrong? So many questions.
Connection: Reading TJLC in May truly made for an emotional Mothers’ Day. There’s nothing that makes you more appreciative of your life and people in it than thinking that it is possible for a blood vessel to rupture in your brain anytime. Dramatics aside, it did make me wonder about the stories my parents hold within them, along with the stories of all the adults I know that immigrated to the United States. They go quietly, smile politely and speak very little in English, not having all the words to explain all that they wish to share..or not share. One of the characters mentioning the “double face” they must maintain, the “Chinese face” and the “American face”, made me think of this.
Lasting memory: 4-year old Bing Hsu jumping and forever disappearing into the ocean. I did not remember reading this part!