Mother-daughter relationships are fraught. Jenny Xie explores how
Jenny Xie's new novel dives into how "strange, infuriating and precious" mothers can be to their daughters.
Who is she? Xie is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York.
What's the big deal? Xie's novel tackles plenty of the human intricacies that can make love, family and life so unique and so difficult.
Want more immigrant stories?Listen to Consider This on Black immigrants in the South.
What's she saying? Xie sat down with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly to break down some of these topics, and her inspiration for telling the story of Kathleen and Marissa.
On the precious yet tenuous nature of a mother-daughter relationship:
It's such a fundamental relationship and I think it's part of that pressure of that double-edged sword of bringing up a daughter in the world. You sort of have to teach them all this inherited trauma of what it means to be a body, even something as distilled as the way you sit when you're young; you learn to sort of cinch up your body and cross your legs and not take up space.
And so it really is ingrained and passed on knowledge. But you understand that your mother is trying to protect you and gear you up for the world.
And how the novel tackles these issues:
I really wanted to talk about the mother-daughter experience. I think it's such a fraught love and magnificent love, but it's immediately complicated by all the pressures that society puts on girls and women and the narrow role that they sort them into.
And for Kathleen and Marissa, I wanted to add this additional layer of complexity, which is what happens when you're part of an immigrant family. And so when Marissa and Kathleen moved to the States what essentially happened is that Marissa moved Kathleen into a realm a little bit beyond her understanding, because they have completely different understandings of history, different values, different world views. And so everything that they would have to navigate as mother and daughter is compounded by this sort of inscrutability and unknowability.
On including a large cast of Chinese women characters:
I wanted to have people have a glimpse into Marissa's world a little bit, into maybe what she's actually lost in coming to the States, because these are friends that she's made through work and through church, but it's a really small coterie.
And you see in those friendships the possibilities and the community that Marissa might have left behind. But I also wanted them to be sort of foils to Marissa in different ways of being alone in the world. But they also have different personalities and see, you know, regard home and in different lights.
You see some of them really assimilating. You see some of them really missing home. And that's something that they can navigate and talk about together. And it's also a generation that Kathleen learns to look on with more respect and awe, because she starts to learn more about how these women have navigated love and relationships in their own lives. So it's a door into how other people have dealt with some of the things that Kathleen and Marissa have both been struggling with.
So, what now?
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