Discussion Leaders: Laura Giovanelli and Mary Good, Anthropology and English
On the cusp of moving from high school into college and the world beyond, how do you come to terms with your family relationships? When do we decide to make a life of honor and character? How does your family’s history—and perhaps your family’s secrets—influence who you are? How does your character come through when we have tough choices to make? And what happens when those decisions affect everyone around us?
Celeste Ng’s 2017 award-winning novel Little Fires Everywhere explores these questions through what happens when two very different families—one rich, one poor—meet, love, and hate in a Cleveland, Ohio suburb. As friendships and relationships blossom, so do multiple versions of The Truth. Teenage Pearl and her mother Mia become intertwined in the lives of the wealthy Richardson family, forcing everyone to navigate twisting ideas about how to keep secrets, how to best chase their dreams (or decide to abandon them), and how to figure out what it means to be a good person. Throughout the novel, their characters are tested and transformed, raising questions about how all-too-human realities–tensions of race, class, the rocky and uncertain journey of just growing up–may shape the people we’re on our way to becoming.
Discussion Leader: Hello, I am Dr. Mary Good, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology. I am a Cultural Anthropologist whose research interests include youth, morality, and digital media. As a former English-Anthropology double major, I have a lifelong love of reading and believe novels can reveal a lot about the values people hold in everyday life. When I first read Little Fires Everywhere, I was especially fascinated by the way it captures the simultaneous comforts and conflicts of high school friendships, sibling rivalries, and parent-child relationships.
Discussion Leader: Hello, I am Professor Laura Giovanelli, an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Writing Program and Department of English and an Assistant Dean of the College. In my writing classes, which are primarily first-year courses themed around issues of identity, I’m engaged by young undergraduates’ thoughtful, critical explorations of their evolving and complex experiences and backgrounds. As a writer myself, I particularly admire Ng’s ability to paint characters who are neither wholly good nor bad, but rather, more realistic and rich portrayals of authentic and complex humans as they grow up and older.
Professors Good and Giovanelli love thinking and talking about the ways our ages and experiences as readers may influence what we read and what we take away from it; the more we read about identity, the more questions we have about how it shapes our lives. We’re excited to discuss Little Fires Everywhere with a group of curious first-year students from different places, experiences, and backgrounds.