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Jessamine Chan Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The School for Good Mothers (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon

Jessamine Chan
Jessamine Chan’s short fiction has appeared in Epoch and Tin House. She is a former reviews editor at Publishers Weekly, and holds a BA from Brown University and an MFA from Columbia University.

Jessamine’s work has received support from the Elizabeth George Foundation, Jentel, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Wurlitzer Foundation, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, VCCA, Ragdale, and the Anderson Center.

Jessamine has been keeping a diary since she was around six year old, although technically it was more drawing than writing in the beginning. Each day’s entry back then was a drawing of whatever gown Vanna White had been wearing on Wheel of Fortune, as she watched a huge amount of television at the time. If she’d been old enough to write captions, she would have.

The novel “James and the Giant Peach” made her a forever reader. She read it in the first grade and mainly remembers her teacher making a huge deal out of the fact that she was reading it by herself and therefore was allowed more time to complete her book report. It helped instill in her mind that books are important and reading is an important life activity.

She writes at her Ikea desk, facing a window, with all kinds of plants close by. She used to work out of their bedroom in West Philly, however now in their suburban apartment in Chicago, she’s got her own apartment.

Her book, “The School for Good Mothers”, began on a really good writing day in February of 2014 when she was trying out new short story ideas. She certainly didn’t sit down that day thinking she would be starting a novel that day. Unlike any of her previous stories, the project came to her fully formed, and that one day of scribbling created an entire foundation for the book that she would eventually write: Frida’s entire arc from beginning to end, her story with Gust, Harriet, and Susanna, the women in the pink lab coats, the school, the dolls, and most importantly, the voice used in the book.

It was a huge challenge to put these intentions into words, since she doesn’t think about intention or theme when she writes. She was at the point in her life when she was grappling with the difficult choice of whether or not to have a baby. She had also read this New Yorker article months prior (called “Where’s Your Mother?” by Rachel Aviv) about this single mother that leaves her toddler at home and her nightmarish experience with the family court system.

That article wasn’t close by her and didn’t think too much more about it until later that day, however something about the mom’s story had lodged into her memory. After Jessamine began reading more about these issues, she learned that her tale is just one of many. The injustice she felt on that mom’s behalf, along with her own intense ruminating on motherhood just fueled the development of Frida’s own story.

She only wants readers to experience this one Asian American perspective, rather than try and represent the whole spectrum of what Asian Americans experience. Diving into Frida’s own family background and conflicting cultural identities was a chance for Jessamine to process some of her own personal experiences, like growing up in a majority white community, feeling some guilt for her class privilege, and feeling shame over not being a good Chinese daughter.

Frida’s an outsider in many ways. Her yearning to belong, and feel comfortable in her own skin, be loved, is rather universal. More than anything else, she wanted to write the Chinese American heroine that she has always wanted read about: vulnerable, flawed, messy, thorny, desirous, yet loving.

But given the technology in the novel, she’s still pretty tech-averse. She spends far too much time on her phone, yet she’s never used Siri, barely knows how to record a voice memo, and even participating in an Instagram Live sends her into a panic.

“The School for Good Mothers” is the first stand alone novel and was released in the year 2021. In Jessamine’s explosive and taut debut, a single lapse in judgment lands one young mom in a government reform program where custody of her child begins to hang in the balance.

Frida Liu’s struggling. She does not have a career that is worthy of all the sacrifices made by her Chinese immigrant parents. What is worse is that she cannot persuade Gust, her husband, to give up his wellness-obsessed younger mistress. Just with Harriet, their angelic daughter, does she finally feel that she has attained the perfection that is expected of her. Harriet might be all that she has, however she is just enough. Until Frida has a terrible day.

The state has got its eyes on moms like Frida: ones that check their phones as their kids are on the playground, that let their kids walk home by themselves. In order words, moms that have just a single lapse of judgment. Now, a series of government officials are going to determine if Frida is really a candidate for a Big Brother-sort of institution which measures the success or failure of a mom’s devotion. Faced with the possibility of losing her daughter, and she must prove that she is able to live up to the high standards set for moms: that she can learn to be good.

In this witty and propulsive page turner explores the perils of “perfect” upper-middle-class parenting, the violence that is enacted upon by the state and one another, and the boundless love a mom has for her daughter.

Readers found this to be a horrifying and gutting read, yet still exquisite and vivid. Jessamine blend dystopian, sci fi, with just a dash of horror in this novel, and readers liked just how thought provoking the novel is, especially the way that the author questions cultural and racial inequality within Motherhood. Fans of the book could tell right from the beginning that this novel would become one of their favorites, and the ending hit them rather hard.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Jessamine Chan

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