I recently finished reading Everything I Never Told You. It’s about a family in the 1970s. A daughter dies and we see secrets she and members of her family have kept that were tearing the family apart. Some of the secrets and actions could make the characters unlikeable and you wouldn’t even care what happens to the family. But Celeste Ng does a great job of fleshing out the characters and making you sympathize with them. I think the book is a good lesson on humanity. We can judge people for bad things they say and do, but often there are things in the past that have led to them being who they are now. (Not that we should excuse any and all behavior, but things don’t happen out of nowhere and it helps to understand the causes of things.) Another lesson is that secrets can hurt a family. Be open and honest with your loved ones.
One good thing about the book was personal for me. I’m a white woman, so finding representation in books and shows isn’t difficult. But I’m also married to a Chinese man and have a biracial son. Often, in media and the general world, if you see a mixed couple or a biracial child it’s a Black/white mix. And if you do see a white person with an East Asian person, the white person is usually a man. So, this book was nice for me in that I could see a shadow of my marriage in this book. (I say a shadow because my marriage is nothing like Marilyn and James Lee’s other than race.) And if my son reads this book when he gets older, he’ll be able to see a biracial family that looks a little like his and kids that might look like he does.
Diversity in literature is wonderful. I imagine kids who have two East Asian parents might have related to some of the racism in this book. And kids of other minority cultures might have related to some of the feeling of being an outsider. Representation is so important. Of course white people married to other white people can enjoy this book, too, because family dynamics and small towns and other aspects of the book are generally relatable.
It’s a good book and you should go buy it.