Little fires everywhere by Celeste NG
Little fires everywhere by Celeste Ng is a novel and now a television series which contrasts the lives of the Richardsons, a “traditional” affluent white family, with the Warrens, who just ended up in the wealthy town after a life of moving and living paycheck to paycheck. The novel explores the concept of identity in terms of race, wealth, and altruism.
The Richardson family is connected with Mia and Peal warren in many aspects despite their contrast in identity. Mia Warren is a tenant of Elaina Richardson’s and serves as the Richardson housekeeper. Pearl becomes close friends with the Richardson children and even becomes romantically involved with one of the Richardson boys.
The complicated relationship between the two families leads to judgment and prejudice based on the clashing identities. The “on the move” lifestyle of Mia and Pearl Warren is seen as irresponsible and selfish in the eyes of Elaina Richardson and I find this to be a great example of the Richardson’s as one and the Warrens perceived as the other in her eyes. Yet, from the eyes of Pearl she truly respects her mother and the sacrifices she makes for the two to have a roof over their heads, until she meets the Richardson’s. Until Pearl experienced another life, she had never questioned the one that she was given.
The question of both family’s moral compass is at its peak when a family friend of the Richardson’s is going through the adoption process of an Asian baby after the mother, who is a coworker of Mia Warren’s, surrendered her child. The mother of the baby had gathered herself and her finances and wanted her baby back, however, the family that had been fostering the baby claim that their wealth and stability was a better fit for the baby. The birthmother and Mia Warren’s perspectives were that the baby would be better suited with the birthmother because the baby could embrace her culture and identity as an Asian American despite her unstable financials.
The combination of these examples of identity depicts Ng’s argument that identity is a complex concept and is not simply one’s culture or one’s status. In, fact identity is a combination of both of those things plus the decisions one makes. I think that the complexity of identity depicted in this novel is something that we had explored in our course in Persepolis, Interpreter of the Maladies, and The Leavers.
For those interested in this novel I would like to share that it is written in a way that engages the reader from the start and takes you through each character’s story in a way that allows the reader to explore their identities with them. To me the novel is a relevant and modern view on different classes of race, socioeconomic status, and immigration.