HomeEntertainmentReview | The joys and challenges of family in four new memoirs

Review | The joys and challenges of family in four new memoirs

Connie Wang’s “Oh My Mother!” is pure joy. A memoir about her mother, Qing, told “in nine adventures,” the book exhibits dark humor to good effect. Wang grew up in Lincoln, Neb., and remembers fretting in Mandarin school on Saturdays about the “Larry King hairline” she inherited from her Chinese father. “I was definitely not as weird as them, these child geniuses far more brilliant and demented than myself, including a twelve-year-old boy who constructed an entire laptop computer from salvaged parts that he then brought with him to class in order to watch porn during vocabulary lessons.”

Wang’s weirdness, she says, comes from her mother, who loves “Magic Mike XXL” and eating ice cream cones for breakfast. In “Oh My Mother!” (an exclamation that is the closest Chinese translation we have to “Oh my God!”), Wang takes us along on family trips to time-shares, China, Las Vegas, Disney World and finally Versailles, where they run into busloads of Chinese tourists. “The effect was totally bizarre, like seeing a birthday cake in the middle of the forest,” Wang writes. “It wasn’t until 2005 that the Chinese Communist Party deregulated their travel restrictions.” At first, Qing is caught off guard. Then, she says, “I am so proud.”

At 58, after years of not being able to get a good night’s sleep, Qing smokes weed in Amsterdam and gets the best rest of her life. “Thanks Connie I love this!” Alongside the funny stories about Qing are Wang’s sharp cultural observations. On the terrifying experience of luxury retail: “There is nothing similar,” nothing that “engenders the same intense feelings of inadequacy, elation, shame, and desire — except perhaps for gambling.”

This memoir ends when many recent ones begin, with the start of the pandemic, and then the birth of Wang’s son, Marc. Wang never intended this to be anything but the story of Qing and her influence on her life. “This is our memoir,” Wang writes. “And it was forged through shared fact-checking. … She is this book’s first editor. Every word you read here has first passed under her red pen,” making the book as unique and charming as its mother-daughter pair. (Viking, $28)

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