Connie Wang’s «Oh My Mother! A Memoir in Nine Adventures» is out today. In it, Wang — a journalist, writer, and editor — explores her relationship with her mother, Qing Li. The book charts their adventures around the world and delves into the complexities of the mother-daughter bond.
As POPSUGAR celebrates APIA Heritage Month with a package of stories centered on friendship, we spoke with Wang about her unique relationship with her mom, the fine line between family and friends, and what’s so special about the connection between Asian mothers and daughters. Read on ahead.
POPSUGAR: In just a sentence or two, how would you describe your relationship to your mom?
Connie Wang: Despite my best efforts, I think — and write — about her way too often because of the sheer force of her personality. She’s the first person I think of when I’m on the cusp of losing it, or putting it all together.
PS: There’s a fine line between family and friendship. How have you navigated this closeness and camaraderie with your mom?
CW: My mom is not my best friend, because she’s my mother. There are layers of obligation, fear, anxiety, dependence, and history within our relationship that I would never wish upon my best friendships. At the same time, my relationship with my mother is unlike any others, and I’m so grateful for it. Through writing this book, my mother and I have had so many conversations in which we’ve come to understand each other as individuals, women, wives and mothers outside of our own relationship with one another. That’s been incredible.
PS: What inspired you to write this collection of essays about your adventures with her?
«I very rarely seek her advice — nor does she offer it.»
CW: During the pandemic, we had been swapping book recommendations to each other, and I had been giving her a lot of books about immigrant stories, which I thought she might connect with. She accused me of trying to depress her (lol), and she said something to me that I couldn’t shake — that all people want to hear about from immigrants like her is that she’s suffered. My mom has been through a lot, and so much of her life has been about surviving and suffering, but she sees so much of it as a series of adventure stories. I wondered what would happen if I recontextualized her story, and, by proxy, my own, as an adventure — this book is a product of that.
PS: What does she think of the book?
CW: Like me, she’s excited by it and also scared about what it means that so many people will know about our business. She’s proud of me — she’s told me that! — and though she’d never admit it, I think she’s proud of herself, too.
PS: What are some of the ways you maintain a healthy relationship with your mom in your day-to-day life?
CW: I try to FaceTime her as often as I can, so she can just be in the room while we’re living our lives (especially when my kid is around, so she can be a grandma through a screen). But the healthiest thing I do with my mom is that I talk to her about things, but I very rarely seek her advice — nor does she offer it. Our brains work far too differently for that to work out well.
PS: Anything else to say around the special bond that can exist between Asian mothers and daughters?
CW: It’s never too late to try and get better at each other’s dominant language — my Chinese is better than ever, and I think her English is, too.
Image Source: Courtesy of Connie Wang / Photo Illustration by Aly Lim