All In Good Storytime

category: Literature

Page Fifty-One--But We Tried to Fight It


In the 51st episode of All in Good Storytime, we finish reading "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng. In these final chapters we are stunned by the big reveal of who set fire to the Richardson house, get the full story behind how and why Mia ran off with her surrogate baby back in art school, learn why Mia and Pearl end up fleeing Shaker Heights, and learn the decision of the court case surrounding baby May Ling Mirabelle as well as what becomes of her.

In this episode, we focus on the conflicting message of the story. Mia shares with Izzy that sometimes you have to burn everything down and start anew but when it comes to Lexie and her abortion she tells her that this is something she will always be sad about and will have to carry with her (unlike the fetus).

While this book is clearly endeavoring to be a thoughtful examination of race and privilege influenced by Ng's personal experiences in Shaker we question what alternative and more effective means she could have used to express her message. Instead of being a reflection on generational trauma and institutional racism the story is more focused on constantly critiquing women who don't live up to the ideal of motherhood and holds biology to be more important above all. This is evident in how the book passes judgment on Lexie for her abortion, forgives Mia and Bebe for kidnapping their biological daughters, and forces couples which are unable to conceive "naturally" to suffer. The one example which counters this is Izzy's tumultuous relationship with her own mother which stands in stark contrast to her close friendship with Mia.

Additionally, we discuss how symbolically Mia represents the virgin Mary, Joseph Ryan is Saint Joseph, Madeleine Ryan is Mary Magdalene, and Pearl is Jesus.

Finally, we express dissatisfaction with the ending and how this book could have shown how starting over requires learning from, and not simply running away from, your mistakes.


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