I’m an intermittent reader. For years I will read voraciously but sometimes I hit dry spells and struggle to get through anything. I try to let myself put books down that haven’t caught my interest or are otherwise disappointing but after reading Lonesome Dove, this is really hard. It got so good after starting out so slowly! These days I find myself sometimes with eyes too tired to read so I listen to strangers reading me stories. When my brain won’t quiet down, it works wonders.
So right now, I’m working my way through two books, one visual and one audible: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (a National Book Award Finalist) and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I usually read some reviews and look for book award nominees before settling down with anything. I can’t remember now why these two got my attention but something in the universe conspired to put these two in my path and on my nightstand. Both have HUGE themes about love, lineage/heritage and every single issue involved in adoption. One is set in Korea and Japan, the other in the Midwest of the good ol’ U.S. of A. Amazingly, the central dramatic conflict in Little Fires is about an American family who adopts an “abandoned” Chinese child and in Pachinko, the arc of the story spirals around a child born to an unmarried Korean woman and a married Korean living as a Japanese after the Korean war. Both books examine the racism and cultural norms surrounding adoption. If you are parenting any child other than one from your own body I urge you to pick up Little Fires Everywhere. This book doesn’t miss a beat: it offers us a view of the journeys of everyone involved in the search for or retreat from parenthood. In Pachinko, watching the dominoes begin to fall after the pregnant Korean woman is married to a local Methodist minister, is just great reading. It also got me to thinking about self-image and identity and how persecution simply boxes people into lives they would never freely choose for themselves and those they love. I can’t promise any black and white answers to much of anything from either of these books but I am sure both will get your brain cells firing. And if you struggle to find empathy or compassion for flawed birthparents, it will be difficult to resist the tugs presented by both of these very different books.