Shanthi Sekaran’s novel Lucky Boy is the bewitching story of two mothers and their love and expectations for themselves and the one boy each calls their own. Young Solimar Castro Valdez braves the border crossing in pursuit of a better life in California. In the turmoil of the experience, she finds love. At the end of it, she’ll be expecting. Kavya Reddy, already married several years to her husband Rishi, is looking for the next step in life, for something that will make herself complete in her otherwise good Berkeley life. And so she decides to have a baby, to start trying to have a baby.
As we jump between the stories of the two women and those who surround them, we become slowly enmeshed in each’s inner turmoil, hopes and dreams, and sense of self. The boy in the title, Ignacio, doesn’t enter the picture as a baby until more than halfway through. Instead, Sekaran focuses on the aspirations of Soli and Kavya — of Soli’s struggles to figure out what life in America looks like as a maid and then nanny to a wealthy Berkeley family, of Kavya’s struggles with fertility and how it affects her marriage. When Soli, who is undocumented, is detained, Ignacio goes into foster care, where he becomes a part of the Reddy family. This second series of dramas occupies the latter half of the story.
Sekaran’s novel is enthralling in how her characters are developed, how she explores what it means to be a mother. We feel the pull of imperfect systems, of immigration, foster care, detention, expectation. There is palpable hope and equally palpable desperation throughout, for Soli, for Kavya, and even for Kavya’s husband Rishi.What does it mean to love a child? What does it mean to lose a child? Vivid and heart rending, Sekaran’s Lucky Boy asks its readers for thoughtfulness and empathy, and explores the uncharted emotional intersection of undocumented immigrants and foster families.
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“Stick and stones may break my bones but names will never harm me”
– A Children’s Rhyme
After The Wife and I got married, she said that she would change her last name. She had a Filipino last name that didn’t look at all Asian – a person with that same last name could easily be white. I told her that I didn’t really care and that she didn’t need to change her name. Turns out that having Asian last name can have an impact. NPR reports here that a Canadian study has shown that resumes with Asian last names sent to Canadian employers received fewer call backs than those with non-Asian names.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 3, Episode 15: “Living While Eddie”
Original airdate March 1, 2017.
Microsynopsis: Emery is excited to learn that an informercial, hosted by his favorite infomercial host, is filming in Cattleman’s Ranch. Louis is given a quick line, but he keeps screwing it up, thanks partially to Emery’s sabotaging Louis’s efforts.
Jessica is called to the mall record store to pick up Eddie, who’s been nailed for shoplifting. At first, Jessica is certain Eddie is guilty, as he is always getting caught trying to pull something, including eating the last papaya she was saving for breakfast. When Eddie proves his innocence, Jessica is apologetic, and when he admits he was taking the blame for the papaya to cover for Evan, whose record is still clean, she is moved to tears.
Evan comes home from a friend’s house and tells his brothers that his friend’s family has a “drying rack” like theirs, only the other family’s drying rack also washes dishes. Curious, the boys discover that black tape is covering the buttons on their drying rack, revealing a dishwasher, something they’ve never heard of. Jessica explains that using a machine to wash dishes is wasteful.
Good: I kind of think the informercial story is a good idea, since it gives Emery specific interests that have nothing to do with his school life or home life. Or love. The dishwasher sequence is cute. Eddie’s interactions with his mom are great, and easily the highlight of the episode. You can see how Jessica sometimes feels that Eddie is the lost child, and it’s touching to see her so proud of him, and not ashamed to express her pleasure.
Bad: Am I the only one who thinks the informercial story is just stupidly put together? It could have been cute, funny, and interesting, but it’s just soooooooo silly, and Emery is revealed to be petty and kind of mean, traits that don’t play very well with his development so far, although I like that in this one Eddie is the good kid and Emery the bad one.
FOB moment: This might not count, but I’m nominating “There is a thing called a white lie. And that is a lie that makes white people soft.” (Jessica)
Soundtrack flashback: “Life As” by LL Cool J (1994), from the Street Fighter movie soundtrack. Twice!
Final grade, this episode: This is a fair-to-middling episode semi-rescued by Nice Guy Eddie. B-minus.