Saturday, October 21, 2023

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy
  The Many Daughters of Afong Moy
Author:  Jamie Ford
Publication Information:  Atria Books. 2022. 384 pages.
ISBN:  1982158212 / 978-1982158217

Rating:  ★★★★

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Faye May signed a contract stating that she would never marry."

Favorite Quote:  "If you plant an acorn ... it may grow to become an oak tree. Yet there is no acorn within that wooden body. Has the acorn been reborn as a tree? Or does the acorn grow up to be something else entirely? It's my belief that the acorn and the tree are an idea, spread out over an abstraction of time. And if that new tree, when fully grown, drops one acorn or a thousand, that idea keeps progressing as this thing we call life."

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a story of war and the destruction war brings even far away from the battlefield. Songs of Willow Frost builds upon the history of the early days of the film industry and events like the massacre at Seattle Wah Mee Club. Love and Other Consolation Prizes also pays homage to the author's ancestry and the Asian American experience. It also builds upon a little known yet horrifying historical incident. All three books begin in Seattle which is where Jamie Ford grew up.

In that way, this book is no different. Its basis is in history of the Asian American immigrant experience. There was an actual Afong Moy. She is said to be the first known female immigrant brought to the United States from China. Entrepreneurs Nathaniel and Frederick Carne brought her to New York City, advertising her as an exotic display - her bound feet, her looks, and her overall appearance. The "exhibit" or "show" toured the country. Sadly, as the show and its popularity disappeared, so did all traces of Afong Moy. It is not known what happened to her.

This book build on this history and the research on generational trauma. The study of this trauma and epigenetic transmission is a relatively young field, with much still to be learned. In that way, this book is very different from Jamie Ford's other books. It travels to the past and the future - what was, the history and the trauma, and what may yet be. Embedded in this story is also a love that transcends time and place. The women of the book are:
  • Dorothy Moy, a poet and a mother to a five year old girl, trying to break the pattern.
  • Faye Moy, a nurse in China serving with the Flying Tigers;
  • Zoe Moy, a student in England;
  • Lai King Moy, a girl in San Francisco during an epidemic;
  • Greta Moy, a tech executive;
  • Afong Moy.
It takes a while to settle into the book and the different timelines. It takes a longer while to settle into the fact that this book is more the presentation of an idea than a plot line beginning to end. It is about trauma compounded through generations. It is about efforts to counter that trauma. It is about hope for the future in science. In the future, it has elements of post-apocalyptic science fiction. 

I lack knowledge of the scientific ideas of the book. It leaves me thinking, and I will remember it. It also sends me in the direction to perhaps read some more about the scientific topic itself

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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