3 New Books About Courageous Children
Mothers and children have been in each other’s arms (and at each other’s throats) since the beginning of time. The three books in this week’s book club explore, celebrate, and mourn this relationship, focusing on touchstone moments and that aching feeling of growing up. Each novel features a strong — or strained — mother-child pairing that forms its core.
Adolescent, gender-fluid Alex is just emerging when their mother pulls them into a grand adventure; suddenly uprooted from their bed, they’re suddenly shoved into the car, leaving their father and their town. It will be years before the adventure comes to a close. Life on the road is tough, and their goal is initially confusing to Alex; what is this marked-up map that Ma carries, and why do they need to visit all of these places? Ma is apparently on a My Name Is Earl-type quest, to reconnect with people from her past and make things right. These people are who Ma calls “The Lauras” — female friends who helped her through her own difficult adolescence.
Poet Zhang’s first collection of short stories, Sour Heart, is a series of interconnected tales of daughters of Chinese immigrants. Alex learns a lot after being sprung from their childhood home, and the complex mix of identity politics that comes with the immigrant experience, combined with the powder keg of teenagehood, leads to strained mother-daughter relationships and shocking discoveries. Each of the seven stories features a different character, each narrating her story in the first person to provide a sense of varied experience with pointed, distinct similarities.
In Iskandrian’s novel, set in the early 1990s, freshman Agnes keenly feels the absence of her mother, who has gone missing, walking out on Agnes and her father. This isn’t the first experience Agnes has had with loss; a few years before her mother’s disappearance (and perhaps behind it) came her older brother Simon’s suicide. Needless to say, Agnes is somewhat adrift in her first year of college but finds two things to be her saving graces: the reassuring structure of academia, and the rush of her boyfriend, Tea Rose. Perhaps desperate for some sort of contact, Agnes doesn’t seem to care about whether the sex she has with Tea Rose is protected or not.