What I enjoyed the most about The Many Daughters of Afong May is the exploration of trauma. This idea of inherited trauma and memories which bleed into our consciousness. And what follows is a story unraveling the threads of history and family. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
Dorothy Moy breaks her own heart for a living.
As Washington’s former poet laureate, that’s how she describes channeling her dissociative episodes and mental health struggles into her art. But when her five-year-old daughter exhibits similar behavior and begins remembering things from the lives of their ancestors, Dorothy believes the past has truly come to haunt her. Fearing that her child is predestined to endure the same debilitating depression that has marked her own life, Dorothy seeks radical help.
Through an experimental treatment designed to mitigate inherited trauma, Dorothy intimately connects with past generations of women in her family: Faye Moy, a nurse in China serving with the Flying Tigers; Zoe Moy, a student in England at a famous school with no rules; Lai King Moy, a girl quarantined in San Francisco during a plague epidemic; Greta Moy, a tech executive with a unique dating app; and Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman to set foot in America.
As painful recollections affect her present life, Dorothy discovers that trauma isn’t the only thing she’s inherited. A stranger is searching for her in each time period. A stranger who’s loved her through all of her genetic memories. Dorothy endeavors to break the cycle of pain and abandonment, to finally find peace for her daughter, and gain the love that has long been waiting, knowing she may pay the ultimate price.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: racism, suicidal ideation, sexism, homophobia, sexual assault, rape, domestic abuse
The Many Daughters of Afong May examines inherited trauma. These pieces of our lives we pass on to our descendants. And the fragmented memories and experiences which are passed on to us. How the history of racism evolves in our lives. At the beginning, there was a bit of confusion to figure out the daughters of Afong May and their lives. While there are timelines and a key at the beginning, it’s natural with set ups like this that it takes time for each character to establish themselves.
For me, it took a bit longer than normal, but I think it’s also due to the fact that with multiple POVs there are often certain ones that resonate with you more. Some end up being ones that aren’t your favorite and then others sometimes resonate more with you for some reason. Pretty early on I realized I had two or three favorite POVs and a few of them are not focused upon as much. Overall, The Many Daughters of Afong May examines the dignities – both quiet and loud – that we give up, that are stripped from us.
With our history, can we begin to diagnose what we inherit? The moments and memories. As you read The Many Daughters of Afong May, you can see the threads forming. The pieces of our lives which ripple in our genes. At the same time, the way that the timelines begin to bleed and impact each other is a speculative treat. The threads weaving within each other. If you love the concept, then this is a must read which is only heightened by the speculative touches. While you may find some POVs you like more than others, keep reading until the end! Find The Many Daughters of Afong May on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.