Falling Leaves

Adeline Yen Mah’s memoir is heartbreaking. She does an excellent job of recounting her dysfunctional family history while simultaneously documenting the turbulent periods that influenced her development. Mah’s pursuit to be part of her family provides an insight into the Chinese culture when daughters were unwanted, ultimately considered a burden. However, this autobiography is not just a cultural study of a Chinese woman’s longing to be accepted in a society where males were the preferred offspring. Psychologically, doesn’t it make sense that anyone despite culture and race would want familial love and acceptance regardless of the abuses experienced? A rational being such as Mah knows the love craved is impossible to achieve, yet that desire is deeply ingrained and impossible to ignore.

This book struck a cord personally. Unfortunately, I can relate to Mah’s abandonment by her family. I have experienced the desire for reconciliation, love, understanding and acceptance knowing it will forever be impossible due to factors beyond my control. Niang (Step Mother) behaved as she did due to cultural influences, however, I believe mental illness probably played a substantial role in her despicable conduct. Mental illness, drug and alcohol, sexual, emotional and physical abuses, taint relationships causing horrific family dysfunction. I have had to learn to accept the things I cannot change as well as not take on the dysfunction of others. Nevertheless, the ache for a different better outcome will always be buried deep within. I imagine these feelings are similar for Mah.

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