Everything I Never Told You Celeste Ng Pdf – This is this month’s “Make It A Double” pick for our “Literary Lush” book club. Starting this year, with some extra time on our hands due to some mischievous virus, our hosts decided to add an optional second book for those who wanted to discuss a little more. Amanda nominated this book and it is one of my oldest child’s favorite books.

We previously read another book, Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng for our club – which I nominated. Ng is a perceptive and devastating writer. She has a pulse on family dysfunction, and a book with this kind of worst-case scenario is entirely realistic, not fantastical. Like Interior Chinatown, our recent read, this book touches on anti-Asian prejudice and the question of fitting in as a racial outsider. However, the setting is very different. The book is mostly set in small-town Ohio, similar to where Ng herself grew up, where most of the places she lived were non-white, most of the schools she attended, etc. In this sense, Kira-Kira has some similarities with the small-town, white America vibe.

Everything I Never Told You Celeste Ng Pdf

Everything I Never Told You Celeste Ng Pdf

Lydia is the 16-year-old daughter, middle child of second-generation Chinese immigrant James Lee and his white southern wife, Marilyn. A few days later, Lydia’s body is found in a lake near their home, with no signs of foul play, no note left, and little but questions to continue.

In Translation — Celeste Ng

From there, the book jumps in time between past and present, slowly unraveling the family dynamics and the multi-generational trauma that haunts Lees.

I feel bad going any further than that short blurb, because spoilers are impossible to avoid. If you don’t want them, stop reading here, read the book, then come back and finish this post.

As it turns out, both James and Marilyn have unfulfilled and unfulfilled dreams. For James, born American but never accepted, he wants to be “normal.” To be considered just another person, not as “Asian”. The aggressions described in the book, micro and macro, all happened to Ng and his family during his childhood and are all very believable. Even the stupidity of speaking slowly like someone who doesn’t understand English – even though Ng, like James, was born and raised in the United States. Because of his otherness, James wants his children to be popular and have friends and fit in. That doesn’t happen, because of where they live – in an all-white neighborhood.

For Marilyn, her shock was that she was never able to pursue her dreams. Her mother deified the role of housewife and mother (ironic since her husband left her), and raised Marilyn to that role. Marilyn’s attempts to break free and pursue her dream of becoming a doctor are cut short by her relationship with James, which results in a pregnancy. Then, when she runs away from home to try to get her degree, she’s broken again by pregnancy — this time with her youngest, Hannah. So, she instead pours her life into Nath, her son, and Lydia, the middle child who, unlike Hannah, looks closer to white (and thus to Marilyn).

Celeste Ng Returns To Her Hometown In ‘little Fires Everywhere’

Lydia is caught between two parents, both trying to live out their own frustrating dreams through her. Lydia blames herself for her mother running away and decides to try to do what she was always asked to do to keep the family together.

Obviously, this is a toxic dynamic. Nath, the true genius in the family, never gets the attention or credit for it, even when he pursues his dreams of astronomy and gets accepted into Harvard. Lydia, quite intelligent, but unable to keep up with the advanced classes her mother takes her, falls behind and is deeply unhappy. And then, with Nath leaving for college, there is no one who understands her.

Hannah, meanwhile, fairly admits that no one in the family particularly cares about her. She is too young to have a really close relationship with Nath and Lydia, and her parents are too focused to notice Lydia anyway.

Everything I Never Told You Celeste Ng Pdf

Meanwhile, James and Marilyn can’t speak honestly to each other. Marilyn couldn’t help but see that James was haunted by his disability, as well as the horribly nasty things Marilyn’s mother had told her about marriage. (To her credit, Marilyn takes James’s side and doesn’t realize that James has overheard them, but she doesn’t really make an effort to understand his deepest fears and pain.) Similarly, James never understands Marilyn’s disappointment in his life, and it’s more due to his own failure to become a “normal” white man. Rather more precisely to Marilyn’s failed desire for a career. Since the book is set in the 1960s and 70s, the options were a little more limited for her, but he might have encouraged her to continue her education.

Dishonesty In Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Don’t Tell You seems to take some inspiration from the way Henry James writes: Ng starts at the periphery—seeing a central truth from a distance, then slowly works inward so that the full context of that truth becomes more clear, like a book. Will progress. It takes very careful writing to do this well, and it’s impressive that Ng has done it in his first book. (Little Fires Everywhere has some similarities.) I found the writing psychologically insightful, and the way Ng was able to make each character sympathetic and nuanced was enjoyable.

Another thing I loved about the book is how well Ng is able to bridge the specific circumstances of the characters to the universal truths of family dynamics. I’m just a generic generic white guy, but many emotional events are things I identify with from my extended family. My mother grew up essentially like Hannah (without Hannah’s ability to wallow in neglect): the older sibling was the favorite, expected to set the world on fire and fulfill her parents’ dreams. Many of us had a sibling who was the favorite child – as Nath said, the failures of the favorite child get more attention than the successes of other children. For many of us who grew up in a fundamentalist subculture, we were expected to make up for our parents’ mistakes and failures—always expected to become the “godly” people they thought they weren’t at a certain age. For my parents’ generation, many of them were involved in some combination of “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll,” and a lot of the shelter and theological nonsense we experienced was an attempt to protect us.

And then there is the attempt to repair one’s past through one’s children. Just as Marilyn saw Lydia as a change to escape the trap of being a housewife, I think my parents – my mother in particular – tried to fix her own family dysfunction through me. Both her father and older brother were older sons, and most of them were projected onto me, my sister being seen as the poor victimized younger brother. I am not, and never have been my mother’s father or brother – despite our birth order we are not even remotely the same people. And, obviously, nothing that happened to me could possibly fix or make up for other broken relationships.

In the paperback version we have, there is an interview with the author at the end and I found that fascinating. Here’s a part I noticed:

Little Fires Everywhere By Celeste Ng Pages 1 50

Sibling relationships are fascinating: you have the same parents and grow up with each other, but more often than not, siblings are incredibly different from each other and have incredibly different experiences even within the same family. You share so much that you should understand each other completely, yet there is enough distance between you that it never happens. It gets even more complicated when one sibling in the family is clearly the favorite: the family constellation can get really tilted when one star shines brighter than the rest.

I wholeheartedly agree with what she says. Experiences in the same family are very different, and a favorite can turn things around. I think my parents tried to be fair and reasonable when we were young, but things went haywire in my teenage years, in significant part due to Gothard’s teaching that “rebellion” is inviting Satan into your life and expressing disagreement or frustration with the status quo. It ended up turning normal adolescent development into a pathology. (In addition, of course, I have a mouth and am a divergent thinker and natural skeptic.) Unfortunately, this accelerated after puberty, and any pretense of not playing favorites evaporated, but my metanarrative mouthing rebel remained strong.

Ng also talks about problematic parenting

Everything I Never Told You Celeste Ng Pdf

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