Celeste Ng’s debut novel focuses on racial isolation

Celeste Ng’s debut novel focuses on racial isolation

The Herald & Review
Decatur, Illinois

Marylynne Pitz, Tribune News Service Writer

Celeste Ng (pronounced “ing”) spent the first nine years of her life in the Pittsburgh suburb of South Park and recalls frequent visits to Century III Mall where her parents, who were academics, shopped enthusiastically at B. Dalton’s and Waldenbooks.

“Our house was just crammed full of books,” said the writer, whose debut novel, “Everything I Never Told You,” made The New York Times list of 100 Notable Books of 2014 and was the Amazon book of 2014. Ng, 34, lives in Cambridge, Mass.

Her debut novel, set in 1977, focuses on the Lee family. There’s Marilyn, an American woman who ignored her mother’s advice and married James, who is Chinese; the couple’s two daughters, Lydia and Hannah; and a son, Nath. Members of the mixed-race family try hard to blend into the vanilla atmosphere of a college town in Ohio. But the Lees remain outsiders, and their sense of isolation is palpable.

As the story opens, Lydia Lee drowns in a lake and so does her mother’s fervent hope that her daughter will become a doctor. Among surviving family members, the death of this promising high school student dredges up intense resentment, bitter truths and harsh anger. Who knew the word kowtow was so loaded?…

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