Here in the U.S., President Carter declared the month of May Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in 1979. I like to be intentional about reading different books from different perspectives, written by people with different life experiences to see the world through different eyes.
Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month by reading Ling Ma’s debut novel, “Severance.” Ma’s novel is a story of a first-generation, Chinese-American millenial before and after the end of the world. A fungal outbreak causes the “fevered” to go into a trance-like state where the infected repeat the same routine actions over and over, slowly starving themselves to death.
The story is fascinating as it depicts how a modern twenty-something might act and react during a deadly global pandemic. Chapters alternate between pre-apocalypse and post-apocalypse as the chapters diverge in the run up to the outbreak and then the days, weeks and months afterwards.
I really enjoyed Ma’s writing style and the story she weaves through the eyes of Candace, who works in New York City as a Project Manager at Spectra, a book publishing company. She has a degree in Visual Arts, but finds herself in need of a job to pay the bills and make ends meet. She excels at her work and finds her Chinese upbringing and limited knowledge of Mandarin as an asset in her work with the printing presses in China. Ma explores the tenuous relationships that Candace has with her parents as immigrants, their hopes for her life to become something, and the opportunities afforded her in America.
Ma’s imaginings of a post-apocalyptic world where much of the population has died of the disease is also an interesting study. Religion and Christianity are a constant thread through the book as Candace worked primarily on the Bible line of books at her company and then in the post-apocalyptic world, Bob uses faux-Christian beliefs to justify his methods of power and control over their rag-tag group.
There is so much here to dissect and explore. It was an excellent read to see things from a different perspective, especially while the world endures this current global health crisis.