What we carry A memoir

Maya Lang

Book - 2020

"How much can you judge another woman's choices? What if that woman is your mother? Maya Lang grew up idolizing her brilliant mother, an accomplished psychologist who immigrated to the United States from India, completed her residency and earned an American medical degree--all while nurturing young children and keeping a traditional Indian home. Maya grew up with her mother's stories ringing in her ears, motivating her, encouraging her, offering solace when she needed it. But afte...r Maya moves across the country and becomes a mother herself, everything changes. Their connection, which had once seemed so invulnerable, begins to fray. Maya's mother, once attentive and capable, becomes a grandmother who is cold and distant. As Maya herself confronts the challenges of motherhood, she realizes that the one person on whom she has always relied cannot be there for her. But she does not understand why. Maya begins to reexamine the stories of her childhood in search of answers to her questions about what is happening to her family. Who is her mother, really? Were the stories she told--about life in India, about what it means to be an immigrant in America, about what it means to be a mother--ever really true? Affecting, raw, and poetic, The Woman in the River is one woman's investigation into her mother's past, the myths she believed, the truths she learned, and her realization that being able to accept both myth and reality is what has finally brought her into adulthood. This is the story of a daughter and her mother, of lies and truths, of being cared by and caring for; it is the story of how we can never really grow up until we fully understand the people who raised us"--

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BIOGRAPHY/Lang, Maya
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Subjects
Genres
Autobiographies
Published
New York : The Dial Press [2020]
Edition
First Edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xiii, 266 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN
9780525512394
052551239X
Main Author
Maya Lang (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* In this deeply moving memoir that manages to be both emotionally engaging and thought-provoking, novelist Lang (The Sixteenth of June, 2014) uses the story of her relationship with her mother as a strong foundation while she explores the nuances of women's choices, the complex emotional demands of caregiving for a parent, the turbulence of early parenthood, and the nature of creativity. Short chapters and a nonlinear narrative enhance the thematic preoccupations and serve well to deliver the layered story of Lang's evolution from an uncertain daughter of Indian immigrant parents to a self-assured writer and mother. Lang's success in staying authentic while acknowledging vulnerable realities as a young mother and when driven to take care of her mom, a physician, as she slides further into Alzheimer's is remarkable as it evolves into an affecting exposition of both family love and creative identity. Lang's interest in the stories we tell ourselves sparks a reexamination of our own narratives about our lives, choices, and relationships. In seeing her mother more clearly, in putting aside her habits of interpretation, Lang learns to view herself with clarity, too, and shares that gift with her readers.WOMEN IN FOCUS Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Lang (The Sixteenth of June) does a great job of understanding and conveying to readers the complexity of the relationship dynamics between mothers and daughters. She begins her story from the perspective of the daughter of a successful psychiatrist mother, an immigrant who put her own needs aside for the benefit of her family. After Lang moves across the country and gives birth to her own daughter, and subsequently suffers postpartum depression, she starts to re-evaluate the terms of her existing mother-daughter relationships. Part self-discovery, part family history, the book takes readers on Lang's journey through her struggles with new motherhood and, later, her caregiving experiences after her mother develops dementia. Her analysis of the shifting roles of mothers and daughters, particularly through the lens of immigration, help to challenge her family's mythology and create a more realistic picture of these roles for the benefit of her own daughter. VERDICT Readers interested in examining their own family stories, or those who experienced the struggles of new parenthood or reversed parenting roles, will connect deeply with Lang's beautiful memoir.—Mattie Cook, Flat River Community Lib., MI Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Lang (The Sixteenth of June) delivers a stirring memoir exploring the fraught relationships between mothers and daughters. Born to Indian immigrants, Lang grew up in New York City in the 1980s and '90s with a stern physician mother and a father who accused her of exaggerating injuries for attention. After her parents divorced, Lang had little contact with her father and lived with her sometimes-distant, fiercely independent mother. After the author's daughter Zoe was born, Lang suffered from a crippling postpartum depression; she asked her mother for help, but her mother refused: "My body cannot handle travel anymore.... If I tried to come to you right now I would die on the plane. And would that make you feel any better? No." Years later, when Lang's daughter was in grade school, her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease—and it was Lang who stepped in to take care of the mother who had refused to care for her. Lang details the difficulties of parental caregiving—making sure her mother eats, dealing with her intense mood swings and memory loss—and examines her own complex emotions as her mother undergoes treatment ("When she was thorny and awful, I was sympathetic. Now that she's thriving, I feel hostile"). Lang's astutely written and intense memoir will strike a chord with readers dealing with a parent's dementia. (Apr.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

The author of The Sixteenth of June offers a memoir about immigrants and their native-born children, the complicated love between mothers and daughters, and the surprising discovery of strength. (biography & autobiography).

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"How much can you judge another woman's choices? What if that woman is your mother? Maya Lang grew up idolizing her brilliant mother, an accomplished psychologist who immigrated to the United States from India, completed her residency and earned an American medical degree--all while nurturing young children and keeping a traditional Indian home. Maya grew up with her mother's stories ringing in her ears, motivating her, encouraging her, offering solace when she needed it. But after Maya moves across the country and becomes a mother herself, everything changes. Their connection, which had once seemed so invulnerable, begins to fray. Maya's mother, once attentive and capable, becomes a grandmother who is cold and distant. As Maya herself confronts the challenges of motherhood, she realizes that the one person on whom she has always relied cannot be there for her. But she does not understand why. Maya begins to reexamine the stories of her childhood in search of answers to her questions about what is happening to her family. Who is her mother, really? Were the stories she told--about life in India, about what it means to be an immigrant in America, about what it means to be a mother--ever really true? Affecting, raw, and poetic, The Woman in the River is one woman's investigation into her mother's past, the myths she believed, the truths she learned, and her realization that being able to accept both myth and reality is what has finally brought her into adulthood. This is the story of a daughter and her mother, of lies and truths, of being cared by and caring for; it is the story of how we can never really grow up until we fully understand the people who raised us"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

“A gorgeous memoir about mothers, daughters, and the tenacity of the love that grows between what is said and what is left unspoken.”—Mira Jacob, author of Good Talk If our family stories shape us, what happens when we learn those stories were never true? Who do we become when we shed our illusions about the past?   Maya Shanbhag Lang grew up idolizing her brilliant mother, an accomplished physician who immigrated to the United States from India and completed her residency all while raising her children and keeping a traditional Indian home. Maya’s mother had always been a source of support—until Maya became a mother herself. Then the parent who had once been so capable and attentive became suddenly and inexplicably unavailable. Struggling to understand this abrupt change while raising her own young child, Maya searches for answers and soon learns that her mother is living with Alzheimer’s.   Unable to remember or keep track of the stories she once told her daughter—stories about her life in India, why she immigrated, and her experience of motherhood—Maya’s mother divulges secrets about her past that force Maya to reexamine their relationship. It becomes clear that Maya never really knew her mother, despite their close bond. Absorbing, moving, and raw, What We Carry is a memoir about mothers and daughters, lies and truths, receiving and giving care, and how we cannot grow up until we fully understand the people who raised us. It is a beautiful examination of the weight we shoulder as women and an exploration of how to finally set our burdens down.Praise for What We Carry"Part self-discovery, part family history. . . [Lang's] analysis of the shifting roles of mothers and daughters, particularly through the lens of immigration, help[s] to challenge her family’s mythology. . . . Readers interested in examining their own family stories . . . will connect deeply with Lang’s beautiful memoir."—Library Journal (Starred Review) “A stirring memoir exploring the fraught relationships between mothers and daughters . . . astutely written and intense . . . [What We Carry] will strike a chord with readers.”—Publishers Weekly“Lang is an immediately affable and honest narrator who offers an intriguing blend of revelatory personal history and touching insight.”—BookPage