By Sophia Whittemore
AsAmNews Staff Writer
“I mean, we’re lucky. No one sees race here,” said Lexie Richardson, a fair-haired suburbanite and fictional character from best-seller Celeste Ng’s newest work, Little Fires Everywhere.
Without knowing it, Lexie ironically speaks to the idea of a 1990s “post-racial suburbia”. Ng’s book aims to tackle that concept of “race, class and privilege”.
The novel opens on an affluent family’s large home burning to the ground. The Richardsons are a picture-perfect family trying to find out who started the mysterious fire, and why.
Ng’s novel is set in Shaker Heights, Ohio, the suburb where she grew up. The area was filled with well-meaning liberals blind to their own privilege, people later forced to confront that blindness during the course of the story.
This Garden-of-Eden suburb in Shaker Heights is about to be torn apart over an adoption custody battle. Specifically, over an Asian American baby girl, May Ling Chow. May’s mother, Bebe, a Chinese immigrant left May Ling at a fire station. Bebe was suffering from postpartum depression. Now the wealthy families of Shaker Heights want May for their own, but time and the law are against them.
Ng’s parents came to the U.S. in the 1960s. Ng has always felt like the “other”, never seeing other families depicted like hers. Now, Ng has a husband and a biracial son, and, at times, she finds that her husband and her grew up in two separate worlds. And this outlook has affected the true complexity and richness of her writing.
“Certain people always get to talk,” said Celeste Ng to The Guardian, “(but in my fiction, everyone, not just those in power), get a say.”
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