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Jessamine Chan

Forfatter af The School for Good Mothers

1 Work 973 Members 46 Reviews

Værker af Jessamine Chan

The School for Good Mothers (2022) 973 eksemplarer

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Kanonisk navn
Chan, Jessamine
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Brown University (BA)
Columbia University (MFA)
Kort biografi
Jessamine Chan’s short stories have appeared in Tin House and Epoch. A former reviews editor at Publishers Weekly, she holds an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Brown University. Her work has received support from the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Wurlitzer Foundation, Jentel, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, the Anderson Center, VCCA, and Ragdale. She lives in Chicago with her husband and daughter.



3.5 stars Sooo many emotions with this one. Interesting premise, good writing but could have been shorter. I felt that it dragged on a bit and became a bit repetitive. I also found some of it unrealistic but then some of it seemed almost too realistic. I felt this book definitely made you think about what is a “good mother” and the pressure that society puts on mothers (not fathers). This is even more so the case in the social media age. Some of the lessons at the school were just so out there and messed up. Yes, let’s teach how to comfort a child by physically harming them first. Let’s teach them to be better mothers by taking them away from their children for a year with little too no contact. While it seemed way out there, I am sure there are those out there who judge without any personal knowledge themselves. Definitely one to think about.… (mere)
slittleson | 45 andre anmeldelser | Feb 2, 2024 |
Reading this was an excruciating experience. I completely hated it.

First, what happens to Frida is close to my worst nightmare. So I think Chan succeeds if this book is meant to horrify. It felt like that episode of Black Mirror where the guy thinks he’s testing a VR game but they’re really just torturing him. So this book succeeds in the horror genre, which is a genre I usually avoid.

But as social commentary, this book felt frustratingly absurd. The circumstances of the book are not a logical extension of current policy taken too far. The circumstances are beyond belief. A few specific gripes:

1. No one understands the first thing about child development in this book. For example, one-year-olds do not play on command. But Frida is judged because she can’t make her 18-month-old play with toys within a certain window of time. Ridiculous. Is it explained anywhere why the social worker doesn’t know how typical toddlers behave? No. We’re supposed to accept that Frida has to live up to impossible standards. The message of the book that mothers face impossible standards is received, but it’s made less effective when the standards are absurd.

2. The parenting “lessons” in the school for bad mothers are just torture. Ok, but why?! There is no world-building to explain why the government is motivated to spend a lot of money surveilling and torturing bad parents. How do the powers that be in this book benefit from gaslighting bad mothers for an entire year?! Again, this book would have been more effective as social commentary if the parenting lessons had roots in actual parenting skills. Or Chan could have built a future world with context so we the readers see what motivated the torture camp.

3. My final gripe necessitates a spoiler. Losing custody of your child is one thing. Having a restraining order keeping you from your child until they are an adult is insane. The justification for this isn’t given. So Chan again gives us a world that wants to torture bad mothers without giving context to show the reader how we got there. The added detail of punishing the maternal grandparents is also exasperating. Why?! Just to maximize the horror?

This book succeeds at scaring the reader, but does it show us how current problematic beliefs could morph into horrifying policies? Not really. It just jumps straight to the horror.

Now that I’ve aired my grievances...

Psychologically, witnessing Frida’s unraveling is effectively done. This book succeeds as a character study of a mother with depression who is unsupported and then ruthlessly punished for falling apart. I kept thinking that what Frida needed from the beginning was mom friends, a community. (I couldn’t believe every single mom she met at the playground judged her, as if self-aware imperfect parents don’t exist in the future?) Frida couldn’t find a parenting community and so she imploded from loneliness and stress. Ironically she finds that community at the torture camp when it’s too late.

Update: I just watched/read [b:Fleishman Is in Trouble|41880602|Fleishman Is in Trouble|Taffy Brodesser-Akner|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1556374309l/41880602._SY75_.jpg|70634699] and think these are weirdly similar books.
… (mere)
LibrarianDest | 45 andre anmeldelser | Jan 3, 2024 |
In some ways, this book reminds me of [b:Never Let Me Go|6334|Never Let Me Go|Kazuo Ishiguro|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1353048590l/6334._SY75_.jpg|1499998] by Kazuo Ishiguro in that it's a near-future sci-fi that's stealthy about the fantastic elements in order to focus on failings in our current systems. I picked this up months after becoming a mother with some friends saying, "hmmm idk about reading that right now" but honestly? It makes the satire THAT much more biting as I'm inundated with Reels on how to be a good parent/you're doing just fine as a parent/but hey maybe here's something your baby should be doing now and if not consider whether you're a Bad Mother? Or the inciting incident, where Frida has a Very Bad Day and stays a little too long at the office- wanting a moment to yourself is so incredibly relatable.

It has additional resonance for me as an American Born Chinese mother of a biracial child. When we see glimpses of Frida's ex and his new partner raising Harriet while Frida's parents aren't kept as in the loop, I'm reminded of the blindspots transracial parents can have with children of color.

At about the 75% mark, I realized there's no way for there to be a truly happy ending here without it being a substantially different story, and the ending here is bittersweet. It's immensely frustrating because you root for Frida the whole time, and she's trying her best! But because she doesn't conform to the idealized version of motherhood, she's deemed Bad.

I did wonder if [plot speculation] the dolls were going to uprise at some point, or if Frida was going to have to choose between Emanuelle and Harriet (which she sort of did, with the videos and the phone access). There's still something very weird with the dolls and I can't help but wonder if the school was also training the doll AI to learn, but we didn't get into that much because it wasn't the focal point.

I'm glad I read it, but I don't think I'll be picking this one up for a reread unless it comes up for book club.
… (mere)
Daumari | 45 andre anmeldelser | Dec 28, 2023 |
I had difficulty reading this book at first, and could only read 10 or so pages at a time before needing to take a break. The second half was much better than the first, until the ending which just didn’t seem to fit the characters.
danielskatz | 45 andre anmeldelser | Dec 26, 2023 |



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