The Reading Quilt: Little Fires EverywhereDec 02, 2022 10:00AM ● By Dr. Rachel Slaughter
Like a family crest, secrets are kept close to the vest. Often the silence which perpetuates the family secrets becomes the invisible thread in that crest. In the novel Little Fires Everywhere, (2017) Celeste Ng, New York Times best-selling author, introduces us to a cast of characters who bear secrets in various ways. Mia Warren, a transient artist and gentle soul, drives her secret to Shaker Heights, Ohio in the passenger seat of her tan Volkswagen, shaking up an idyllic affluent suburban neighborhood of Shaker Heights.
Celeste Ng, an American author, was born in Pittsburgh, PA. She also spent some time in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. Warrensville Township, a location featured in Ng’s book, is southeast of Cleveland. The first settlers arrived to the wooded area in 1808. A graduate of Harvard, Celeste went on to earn an MFA at The University of Michigan. Her writing career began with essays which were met with accolades and awards while appearing in publications like New York Times and The Guardian. Celeste’s first novel Everything I Never Told You (2014) was New York Times best seller. To date, the novel has been translated into two dozen languages.
Quality- In Celeste Ng’s book Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste details the lives of young people who are quizzical about the concept of poverty. Celeste writes, “Moody almost could not believe that people could be so poor.” And, in a lovely turn of events, Moody’s family, The Richardsons, has the opportunity to rub shoulders with poor people. How his parents deal with the new relationship with “the poor people” underscores The Richardson’s family values. Twenty five different publications named the novel the best book of the year. Additionally the book won the Goodreads Readers Choice Award 2017 in Fiction.
Universal theme- The theme of identity and belonging is poignant in this novel. The narrative sizzles with characters who wish to find a comfortable place in society, and others who believe they set the standards for The American Dream.
Imaginative plot- In a writing style that could be described as plain or even pithy, Celeste Ng spins an elaborate story of two families from different sides of the track without extraneous details. Without being superfluous, Celeste Ng gives the readers a complete and intriguing backstory that brings to light hotbed subjects like interracial adoption, socioeconomic status, and personal transformation. As an added bonus, Ng details social interactions and moral decisions that are meant to make her readers uncomfortable.
Lesson plan - Choc full of controversial topics like abortion, transracial adoption, and obsession, the storylines in this novel could spark heated classroom debates. The obligations the rich have to the poor is the most benign of the topics threaded in this novel.
Talking points - Socio-economic status (SES) is the totality of a person’s wealth, goods, and access to information and social resources. SES plays an important role in the lives of adolescents, their self-perceptions as well as their perceptions of the external world. Celeste offers a novel featuring adolescents that are socializing with clear knowledge of the disparities that exist between the haves and have nots. The juxtaposition of the two social statuses create a tension that is realistic, albeit uncomfortable. Listed below are possible talking topics that could help young readers process the novel.
Are rich people obligated to share their wealth with poor people? If so, in what ways?
When does SES become an obstacle in a friendship?
Should parents of high SES find opportunities for their rich children to socialize with kids who are less fortunate?
How would you describe your social class?
Dr. Rachel Slaughter’s (Doc) textbooks Turning the Page: The Ultimate Guide for Teachers to Multicultural Literature, and Turning the Page: A Guide to Securing Multicultural Literature for Schools, both published by Rowman & Littlefield and available in all bookstores, have brought Doc global recognition. For more information, log onto drrachelslaughter.info.
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Each month “The Reading Quilt” provides a short review of a book or play that a teacher may use to spark conversations about culture and race, along with a learning activity that may help... Read More »