Dec 25, 2021
“When I think about people, I think about space, how much space a person takes up and how much use that person provides,” begins Joan is Okay by Weike Wang. Our narrator is Joan, a thirty-six-year-old Chinese-American whose life happily revolves around the New York City hospital ICU, where she works as a physician. But when her father dies unexpectedly from a stroke, and her mother returns to America from China to “become friends” with her children, and her brother and sister-in-law mount pressure on her to settle down in the suburbs and start a family, and the coronavirus pandemic shuts all life down, Joan is forced to question her workaholism and define her own cultural beliefs.
Binaries give structure and conflict to the story: Joan and her brother, work life and domestic life, America and China, present and past.