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In caring for her aging mother and her own young daughter, writer Maya Shanbhag Lang--"a new voice of the highest caliber" (Rebecca Makkai)--confronts the legacy of family myths and how the stories shared between parents and children reverberate through generations: a deeply moving memoir about immigrants and their native-born children, the complicated love between mothers In caring for her aging mother and her own young daughter, writer Maya Shanbhag Lang--"a new voice of the highest caliber" (Rebecca Makkai)--confronts the legacy of family myths and how the stories shared between parents and children reverberate through generations: a deeply moving memoir about immigrants and their native-born children, the complicated love between mothers and daughters, and the discovery of strength. How much can you judge another woman's choices? What if that woman is your mother? Maya Shanbhag Lang grew up idolizing her brilliant mother, an accomplished physician who immigrated to the United States from India and completed her residency, all while raising her children and keeping a traditional Indian home. She had always been a source of support--until Maya became a mother herself. Then, the parent who had once been so capable and attentive turned unavailable and distant. Struggling to understand this abrupt change while raising her own young child, Maya searches for answers and soon learns that her mother is living with Alzheimer's When Maya steps in to care for her, she comes to realize that despite their closeness, she never really knew her mother. Were her cherished stories--about life in India, about what it means to be an immigrant, about motherhood itself--even true? Affecting, raw, and poetic, What We Carry is the story of a daughter and her mother, of lies and truths, of receiving and giving care--and how we cannot grow up until we fully understand the people who raised us. Advance praise for What We Carry "A dazzling, courageous memoir about the weight we carry as women, daughters, and mothers--and what happens when we let go. Lang takes us deep into the heart of her relationship with her mother, a brilliant psychiatrist and Indian immigrant with long-buried secrets. After a health crisis brings mother and daughter under the same roof for the first time since childhood, Lang grapples with new information about the parent she'd idolized, and realizes it's time to tell the story of her own life. What We Carry is a love letter to everyone who has swum through turbulent water before reaching the shores of selfhood."--Chloe Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Immortalists


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In caring for her aging mother and her own young daughter, writer Maya Shanbhag Lang--"a new voice of the highest caliber" (Rebecca Makkai)--confronts the legacy of family myths and how the stories shared between parents and children reverberate through generations: a deeply moving memoir about immigrants and their native-born children, the complicated love between mothers In caring for her aging mother and her own young daughter, writer Maya Shanbhag Lang--"a new voice of the highest caliber" (Rebecca Makkai)--confronts the legacy of family myths and how the stories shared between parents and children reverberate through generations: a deeply moving memoir about immigrants and their native-born children, the complicated love between mothers and daughters, and the discovery of strength. How much can you judge another woman's choices? What if that woman is your mother? Maya Shanbhag Lang grew up idolizing her brilliant mother, an accomplished physician who immigrated to the United States from India and completed her residency, all while raising her children and keeping a traditional Indian home. She had always been a source of support--until Maya became a mother herself. Then, the parent who had once been so capable and attentive turned unavailable and distant. Struggling to understand this abrupt change while raising her own young child, Maya searches for answers and soon learns that her mother is living with Alzheimer's When Maya steps in to care for her, she comes to realize that despite their closeness, she never really knew her mother. Were her cherished stories--about life in India, about what it means to be an immigrant, about motherhood itself--even true? Affecting, raw, and poetic, What We Carry is the story of a daughter and her mother, of lies and truths, of receiving and giving care--and how we cannot grow up until we fully understand the people who raised us. Advance praise for What We Carry "A dazzling, courageous memoir about the weight we carry as women, daughters, and mothers--and what happens when we let go. Lang takes us deep into the heart of her relationship with her mother, a brilliant psychiatrist and Indian immigrant with long-buried secrets. After a health crisis brings mother and daughter under the same roof for the first time since childhood, Lang grapples with new information about the parent she'd idolized, and realizes it's time to tell the story of her own life. What We Carry is a love letter to everyone who has swum through turbulent water before reaching the shores of selfhood."--Chloe Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Immortalists

30 review for What We Carry: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rene Denfeld

    “Maybe at our most maternal, we aren’t mothers at all. We’re daughters, reaching back in time for the mothers we wish we’d had and then finding ourselves.” This is such an achingly lovely, honest, insightful memoir, one that sings with truth about mothers and daughters (and every relationship). Maya Lang writes with grace and clarity, telling a story that is both informative and universal. Highly recommend.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Camelia Rose

    What We Carry is a memoir about the mother-daughter relationship. As a second generation immigrant, Maya Lang always idealized her hardworking, intelligent, psychiatrist mother, but when Maya gave birth to a daughter and needed her mother most, she became unavailable. Whenever it comes to mother-daughter relationship, it's complicated. In What We Carry, we read how Mary Lang reconciles the different versions her mother: the version in her mind, the version her mother used to be, and the mother wh What We Carry is a memoir about the mother-daughter relationship. As a second generation immigrant, Maya Lang always idealized her hardworking, intelligent, psychiatrist mother, but when Maya gave birth to a daughter and needed her mother most, she became unavailable. Whenever it comes to mother-daughter relationship, it's complicated. In What We Carry, we read how Mary Lang reconciles the different versions her mother: the version in her mind, the version her mother used to be, and the mother who gradually became after Alzheimer disease. Being a mother herself and caring for her aging mother, she is also on a journey to self-discovery. This is a book about love, acceptance and letting go. It's written in terse sentences and in present-tense, like flashes. Quotes: "We must not judge....we can not know the weight of other woman's burden, whatever a woman decides, it is not easy." "Does the demand for motherhood ever cease?"

  3. 4 out of 5

    BookOfCinz

    This is what a mother’s love looks like to me. It looks like suffering. There is a story that is referred to a lot Maya Shanbhag Lang’s memoir, What We Carry , it is about a mother crossing a river with her son. The mother realizes that the river is much deeper than expected and she had a choice to make, save herself or save her child in a river with her son… Maya and her Mother works to figure out what the mother in the story choice should be. What We Carry is writer Maya Shanbhag Lang’s m This is what a mother’s love looks like to me. It looks like suffering. There is a story that is referred to a lot Maya Shanbhag Lang’s memoir, What We Carry , it is about a mother crossing a river with her son. The mother realizes that the river is much deeper than expected and she had a choice to make, save herself or save her child in a river with her son… Maya and her Mother works to figure out what the mother in the story choice should be. What We Carry is writer Maya Shanbhag Lang’s memoir about her relationship with her mother. It is well written, visceral, deeply moving, complicated, beautiful, nuanced and packed with so many different feelings. Maya documents what is like for her taking care of her very independent, brilliant, strong mother who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She must recreate a story in her mind to make the changes in roles easier. During her care taking Maya finds out more about her Mother’s past, things she wasn’t privy to, “secrets” that rock her to her core. This part for me really hit home, I really identified with Maya’s family, and when she wrote “I grew up with the understanding that the past was off-limits… My whole family avoided the subject. I have no idea how this unspoken pact was formed. I FELT THIS! So imagine having to take care of your mother with Alzheimer’s, who tells you her secret and you have no way of working through those emotions. This book perfectly captures in a beautiful way, motherhood and mother-daughter relationships. I was blown away but the purity of the relationship and Maya’s commitment to being authentic to her story. I highly recommend this one. What I learned reading this book I learned that pharmaceutical companies often out x and y In the product names (Xanax, Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac) because it makes them more memorable The French refers to orgasm as la petite mort

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marilyn

    What We Carry: A Memoir by Maya Lang was one of the most heartfelt, emotional and beautiful memoirs I have read in a long time. Maya Lang's complicated relationship with her mother resonated and evolved throughout the pages of this memoir. Sometimes what a child sees is not always what is true. It took Maya a long time to realize and accept this fact about her mom. Perhaps becoming a mother herself, having suffered through postpartum depression and learning that her own mother had Alzheimer's la What We Carry: A Memoir by Maya Lang was one of the most heartfelt, emotional and beautiful memoirs I have read in a long time. Maya Lang's complicated relationship with her mother resonated and evolved throughout the pages of this memoir. Sometimes what a child sees is not always what is true. It took Maya a long time to realize and accept this fact about her mom. Perhaps becoming a mother herself, having suffered through postpartum depression and learning that her own mother had Alzheimer's later on in her life gave Maya the courage to question, look more closely and examine the 'real" relationship she had with her mother. What transpired during this reexamining forced Maya to come to terms with the parts of her childhood that she had looked at through rose colored glasses for so long. As these truths surfaced they molded Maya into a stronger version of herself and made her a better daughter, mother and wife. As Maya Lang journeyed through her life, she visualized herself as a child that had a hard time fitting in, being the end product of immigrant parents, with an abusive father and a mother that could do no wrong, as a woman, loving wife, mother, author and above all else a daughter. I look back at my relationship I had with my mom and know that that relationship was beautiful, strong and honest. In my own way, as I am sure most daughters do, I tried to emulate the strengths and beauty of that relationship and pass it on to my daughters. My love for my daughters, as my mom's was for me, is unconditional and all encompassing. I believe that Maya became the strong woman she was because of the love she felt for her mom. Alzheimer's robbed Maya in some ways of her mother but also allowed her to finally see, accept and love her mother despite some of the misconceptions she viewed through her childhood. It also helped Maya's relationship with her daughter, Zoe, become stronger. Relationships can be tricky and take work. It is an ongoing process. Mothers have a hand in shaping their daughters into the people they will become and those same daughters will turn around and hopefully influence their daughters in a similar and positive way. What We Carry: A Memoir by Maya Lang was truthful, heartfelt and emotional. I felt Maya's hurt and felt her happiness. The writing was beautiful. I admired her for being able to share these most private and emotional feelings in her story. I also admired how in the end she was able to forgive her mother for those situations that should have been solved differently and with more honesty. This is a wonderful memoir that will play havoc with all your emotions. I highly recommend it. I received a complimentary edition of What We Carry: A Memoir by Maya Lang in a goodreads give away. Thank you to The Dial Press/Random House, goodreads and Maya Long for allowing me to read this beautiful book. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    Digital arc via edelweiss. This is a book I’ll be buying the minute it hits the shelves. I’m never going to be able to do this story justice in a review, but I can say without any hesitation that it’s a story that will resonate with anyone who has experienced life with an aging parent. It was an emotional gut punch of the best kind. I intend to give this book a reread as it nears its release in April of 2020 and will update my thoughts at that time. For now: add this to your TBR. It’s going to b Digital arc via edelweiss. This is a book I’ll be buying the minute it hits the shelves. I’m never going to be able to do this story justice in a review, but I can say without any hesitation that it’s a story that will resonate with anyone who has experienced life with an aging parent. It was an emotional gut punch of the best kind. I intend to give this book a reread as it nears its release in April of 2020 and will update my thoughts at that time. For now: add this to your TBR. It’s going to be worth it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Maya Lang’s novel The Sixteenth of June* was one of my top three novels of 2014, so I was eager to read her next book, a forthright memoir of finding herself in the uncomfortable middle (the “sandwich generation”) of three generations of a female family line. Her parents had traveled from India to the USA for her mother’s medical training and ended up staying on permanently after she became a psychiatrist. Lang had always thought of her mother as a superwoman who managed a career alongside paren Maya Lang’s novel The Sixteenth of June* was one of my top three novels of 2014, so I was eager to read her next book, a forthright memoir of finding herself in the uncomfortable middle (the “sandwich generation”) of three generations of a female family line. Her parents had traveled from India to the USA for her mother’s medical training and ended up staying on permanently after she became a psychiatrist. Lang had always thought of her mother as a superwoman who managed a career alongside parenthood, never asked for help, and reinvented herself through a divorce and a career change. When Lang gave birth to her own daughter, Zoe, this model of self-sufficiency mocked her when she had postpartum depression and needed to hire a baby nurse. It was in her daughter’s early days, just when she needed her mother’s support the most, that her mother started being unreliable: fearful and forgetful. Gradually it became clear that she had early-onset Alzheimer’s. Lang cared for her mother at home for a year before making the difficult decision to see her settled into a nearby nursing home. Like Elizabeth Hay’s All Things Consoled, this is an engaging, bittersweet account of obligation, choices and the secrets that sometimes come out when a parent enters a mental decline. I especially liked how Lang frames her experiences around an Indian folktale of a woman who enters a rising river, her child in her arms. She must decide between saving her child or herself. Her mother first told this story soon after Zoe’s birth to acknowledge life’s ambiguity: “Until we are in the river, up to our shoulders—until we are in that position ourselves, we cannot say what the woman will do. We must not judge. That is the lesson of the story. Whatever a woman decides, it is not easy.” The book is a journey of learning not to judge her mother (or herself), of learning to love despite mistakes and personality changes. *One for me to reread in mid-June! Full disclosure: Maya and I are Facebook friends. Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nadia

    “Maybe at our most maternal, we aren’t mothers at all. We’re daughters, reaching back in time for the mothers we wish we’d had and then finding ourselves.” What begins as a self-reflected motherhood becomes an externalized motherhood, becoming mother to a mother, and discovering that mothers are not perfect. This might not be a shock to most people, but it was to Lang, who discovers things about her mother that fundamentally alter everything she knew about how her mother survived, planned, and l “Maybe at our most maternal, we aren’t mothers at all. We’re daughters, reaching back in time for the mothers we wish we’d had and then finding ourselves.” What begins as a self-reflected motherhood becomes an externalized motherhood, becoming mother to a mother, and discovering that mothers are not perfect. This might not be a shock to most people, but it was to Lang, who discovers things about her mother that fundamentally alter everything she knew about how her mother survived, planned, and lived her day-to-day life in her years after immigrating to the United States from India. In reckoning with those new truths, Lang faces the lies that shaped her into the person she is today, and the consequences, both positive and negative, that those stories had on her life. Throughout, however, she is resistant to judge harshly her own mother, recognizing how harshly mothers are judged in general, a point driven home by the occasional repetition of an old tale her mother had told her about a mother wading across a river with her baby. When the water becomes too deep, the mother has to make a choice: herself or her child. Neither choice brings praise, both condemnation. But there is no answer, until you are the mother wading in the river. Lang finds a way to choose both herself, her child, and her mother, in a beautiful memoir that I can’t wait to recommend to everyone I know. I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    There were some very poignant moments in here and revelations about mother daughter relationships that will stay with me for a while. There were also some annoyingly cliche thoughts scattered throughout that had me cringing involuntarily. The first 2/3rd of the book was just stunning and I so related with it and learned so much. The last third was a memoir of caregiving and decline, which I related with less, but really appreciated anyway.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Claudia Silk

    This is a gorgeously written memoir about mothers and daughters. The writing was not only so beautiful but so many things resonated deep within me. Highly recommend for all mothers or daughters.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Park

    I really related to this story as my mother has dementia. Many of the stories were so familiar and appreciated the author’s interpretation of life and how we learn about ourselves and our loved ones through the processing of losing them.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Susie Dumond

    "Maybe at our most maternal, we aren't mothers at all. We're daughters, reaching back in time for the mothers we wish we'd had and then finding ourselves." Maya Shanbhag Lang always idolized her mother, a brilliant physician who immigrated from India to the U.S. But then a change in her mother’s temperament led to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. As she took on her mother and young daughter’s care, Lang learned that despite their closeness, there was much to learn about her mother’s past. This memoir is "Maybe at our most maternal, we aren't mothers at all. We're daughters, reaching back in time for the mothers we wish we'd had and then finding ourselves." Maya Shanbhag Lang always idolized her mother, a brilliant physician who immigrated from India to the U.S. But then a change in her mother’s temperament led to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. As she took on her mother and young daughter’s care, Lang learned that despite their closeness, there was much to learn about her mother’s past. This memoir is so emotionally powerful, and written so well. Lang's story is heartbreaking and hope-making at once, and her reflections on motherhood and daughterhood will take your breath away. Having a parent with dementia is such a painful topic that I struggled to pick this one up, but once I did, I couldn't put it down. Thanks to NetGalley and Dial Press for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Poonam

    First, thank you to Dial Press for a free hard copy. This memoir is EVERYTHING. I read an advanced e-copy in mid March, around the time the shelter in place orders started. So emotions were already high, and this book was like a salve to my soul. Maya’s parents immigrated to the US from India, and Maya spent the majority of her life idolizing her mom. The strength to start over in a new country, build a successful career, and maintain a home for her husband and children. This story has all the elem First, thank you to Dial Press for a free hard copy. This memoir is EVERYTHING. I read an advanced e-copy in mid March, around the time the shelter in place orders started. So emotions were already high, and this book was like a salve to my soul. Maya’s parents immigrated to the US from India, and Maya spent the majority of her life idolizing her mom. The strength to start over in a new country, build a successful career, and maintain a home for her husband and children. This story has all the elements of the making it in America immigrant dream, and Maya revered her mom for all she accomplished. But the truth is never quite so dreamy. Maya’s journey to understand who her mom truly is begins when she discovers her mom has Alzheimer’s. She starts examining the myths and stories she told herself and what happens when confronted with the reality of who her mom actually is - human, flawed, and doing her best. In addition to Maya’s story about her and her mother, I was floored by the truths Maya illuminated in her upbringing. Moments that I thought were mine alone. My eyes widened more than once, when Maya shared an insecurity or struggle she had. Something I didn’t know others experienced. And then wondered if these insecurities I struggled with, and could not name, were more common than I gave credit for. Reading this book felt like watching an episode of THIS IS US or reading MAYBE YOU SHOULD TALK TO SOMEONE. It’s heartfelt and relatable and it hits at that part of you that wants to feel connected. WHAT WE CARRY is a story about mothers and daughters. The way relationships evolve. The ebb and flow of family dynamics. I’m grateful to Maya for sharing her story, and 100% recommend this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Abigail

    I received a complimentary copy of this e-book ARC from the author, publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. What We Carry offers so much – insight into an immigrant experience, Maya Shanbhag Lang’s experience growing up as a second generation Indian American, childhood trauma, postpartum depression, Alzheimer’s, and much much more. While packed with an abundant of life’s joys and sorrows, What We Carry is ultimately about womanhood. It is about how love is always interdependent I received a complimentary copy of this e-book ARC from the author, publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. What We Carry offers so much – insight into an immigrant experience, Maya Shanbhag Lang’s experience growing up as a second generation Indian American, childhood trauma, postpartum depression, Alzheimer’s, and much much more. While packed with an abundant of life’s joys and sorrows, What We Carry is ultimately about womanhood. It is about how love is always interdependent and liberating. Maya masterfully weaves a family legend throughout the memoir, where a woman is found in an impossible situation—she is in a river, carrying her child overhead, and she must decide if she saves herself or her child. Who will she choose? As Maya depicts her various stages of being a daughter, a mother, a writer, and a person who grows into her strength, readers are drawn into the complexity of the woman in the river’s choice. Ultimately, we are all invited to be this woman in the river. We are invited into a liberating strength to choose ourselves, not to the exclusion of our children or others whom we love, but as the only way of learning how to swim—both mother and child. What We Carry is a tribute to motherhood, the experience of being a daughter, and being a woman who finds herself strong and resilient in a world that conditions her to sacrifice herself rather than be fully alive.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    There are so many things I want to say about this stunning memoir by Maya Shanbhag Lang that I don't know where to start. This quote from a story the author's mother tells her seems like a good place - "Whatever a woman decides, it's not easy." "What We Carry" is the story of Lang's relationship with her mother, a brilliant but complicated psychiatrist who emigrated to the U.S. and is eventually diagnosed with dementia. As her mother ages and the disease progresses, the author learns that not eve There are so many things I want to say about this stunning memoir by Maya Shanbhag Lang that I don't know where to start. This quote from a story the author's mother tells her seems like a good place - "Whatever a woman decides, it's not easy." "What We Carry" is the story of Lang's relationship with her mother, a brilliant but complicated psychiatrist who emigrated to the U.S. and is eventually diagnosed with dementia. As her mother ages and the disease progresses, the author learns that not everything she believed about her mother and their past is true, forcing her to reexamine her childhood and her mom for what and who they really are, and how that made her who she is today. It also forces her to reassess who she wants to be. Lang's journey as a woman, as a wife, as a mother and most of all as a daughter, is beautiful, heartbreaking, and revelatory. Her writing is lyrical and honest and although it's not a light read, the book is fast-paced and you won't want to put it down. I find myself looking at my relationship with my mother, and hers with my grandmother who also suffered from dementia, differently after reading "What We Carry," and I've also been reflecting on how I want my own daughters to look at their relationships with me. At one point, Lang writes "Maybe at our most maternal, we aren't mothers at all. We're daughters, reaching back in time for the mothers we wish we'd had and then finding ourselves." That is the gift of this book - helping us reflect on our relationships with the women who made us who we are as we shape the women our daughters will become. Thank you to NetGalley, Random House and the author for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. Thank you, Dial Press/Penguin Random House. What We Carry is an intimate and beautifully written memoir exploring Maya Shanbhag Lang's complicated relationship with her mother—who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's—and how that in turn informed her relationship with her own daughter, Zoe. This deeply personal look at motherhood, mental health, and immigration was affecting and often times frustrating to read (but purposely so), much of it due to Lang's father, who I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. Thank you, Dial Press/Penguin Random House. What We Carry is an intimate and beautifully written memoir exploring Maya Shanbhag Lang's complicated relationship with her mother—who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's—and how that in turn informed her relationship with her own daughter, Zoe. This deeply personal look at motherhood, mental health, and immigration was affecting and often times frustrating to read (but purposely so), much of it due to Lang's father, who was a selfish and detestable man. As Lang's mother unraveled and her condition became worse, Lang began to peel back the lies and illusions her mother had built up over the years. Parents keep so much from their children because they feel like they should protect them… or protect themselves. It's something I've thought about and attempted to discuss with my parents, sometimes with little success. There's so much I don't know about them, both past and present, and I suspect I never will. I also really related to the burden of guilt that we inherit as the children of immigrants. It's permanently intertwined with love, expectation, and acceptance. As an aside, I'm finding that I really enjoy books comprised of tiny little two or three-page chapters (like My Sister, the Serial Killer). It's so easy to pick up and put down this book without completely losing my place.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Judith von Kirchbach

    Great memoir ! Lang’s astutely written and intense memoir will strike a chord with readers dealing with a parent’s dementia. It also explores dealing with childhood trauma and forgiving a parent’s errors later in life. While dealing with those difficult subjects it is an easy fast paced read - wonderful !

  17. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    A good novel. Well written

  18. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Cox

    This book really hit home with me. It's the story of a daughter, and her changing relationship with her mother, her daughter, and herself. It starts off with an Indian folk story and ideas of her mother being perfect. As the story unravels, you realize that parents aren't perfect, and they're just flawed people too. At points it almost seems like she hates her mother, but then it comes back to a more even ground, with joys and challenges interwoven into a complex relationship. I found it very eas This book really hit home with me. It's the story of a daughter, and her changing relationship with her mother, her daughter, and herself. It starts off with an Indian folk story and ideas of her mother being perfect. As the story unravels, you realize that parents aren't perfect, and they're just flawed people too. At points it almost seems like she hates her mother, but then it comes back to a more even ground, with joys and challenges interwoven into a complex relationship. I found it very easy to connect with the emotions of the narrator. I felt joy, jealousy, sorrow, anger, and resignation on her behalf. It all felt very raw and real, and not just written in a way that would elicit sympathy. I think her journey mirrors what a lot of people go through. I especially love how her realizations reflect back on her own self-worth and self-care, and how she chooses to be more honest with her own daughter as a result. With the hopes that her own daughter will be her own person who can make her own choices. Highly recommend this book, especially to women who feel the burden of being a caregiver, or who are struggling in their relationship as mother or daughter.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    As Maya begins to care for her aging mother with Alzeimer's, she starts to realize the story of her mother and their relationship was more complicated than she had initially judged. Her journey of discovery is messy and I would find myself judging the situation, only to be given more understanding and humility a few chapters later. Relationships are difficult, change, need readjustments, and require love, strength, and acceptance. I enjoyed hearing her honest and beautifully written story, and I As Maya begins to care for her aging mother with Alzeimer's, she starts to realize the story of her mother and their relationship was more complicated than she had initially judged. Her journey of discovery is messy and I would find myself judging the situation, only to be given more understanding and humility a few chapters later. Relationships are difficult, change, need readjustments, and require love, strength, and acceptance. I enjoyed hearing her honest and beautifully written story, and I hope I have gained some compassion from it. -"We must not judge....we can not know the weight of other woman's burden, whatever a woman decides, it is not easy." -"I don't want Zoe going through life thinking that I gave myself up for her. I don't want guilt to be her inheritance. My assumptions of motherhood have been all wrong. I feared I was supposed to have all the answers, I didn't know my daughter would help me find them. I worried she would be an obstacle to my dreams, not the reason I went after them. Zoe makes me want to be the best version of myself. That isn't sacrifice. It's inspiration." -"Rather than telling new moms to indulge, to do the frivolous activities that women in movies do, we should say this: find yourself, gather yourself up before it is too late. You are at risk of getting buried. Maybe you're already feeling buried. Do something that will solidify your sense of self, buttress your retaining walls. Don't worry if it feels scary. It's probably a good thing if it does." -"They weren't necessarily true to events, but they were true to her. As a writer, I should've known better. I of all people should have understood that a story needn't be accurate in order to be true." -"All that time as a new mother when I felt overburdened, functioned like my time in the gym. It strengthened me. I know now how much I can carry." -"She didn't always know how to care for me the way I wanted, she cared for me the way she knew how." -"I wish I could have my old mom back for a day. I want my former mom to help me with my current one." -"These are the minutia I once would've shared with my mom, how trivial these events, how utterly inconsequential. But in receiving them she performed a role. To listen is not inconsequential at all...I miss having someone in my life who cared about the details, who gave me the space to be an unhurried version of myself. I don't think there is a replacement for this. No-one else can be a mom...It is true that I have a hard time recalling her, how she used to be. Yet I feel her acutely in the space created by her absence, its particular hollow. In grieving her, I remember. " -"The episode with the tea helps me grasp my situation. I can't fathom my mother's disease, can't wrap my mind around what it and our living arrangement means, but a small anecdote involving tea is manageable, it gives me a story, a way to explain to others and to myself, the ineffable. It gives me a few lines when the rest of the tale is out of reach. Alzheimer's is devastating because it annihilates one's story. It vacuums it up. Even the name feels greedy to me. What gets me is the apostrophe, that possessive little hook. It drags your loved one away from you. My mom no longer belongs to me, she belongs to her illness. My time with her is a way of countering that apostrophe. The episode with the tea, in giving me a story, allows me to stake a claim on her. The magnitude of the ocean can be overwhelming, but a sandcastle, however fleetingly defies that power. It's beauty is more poignant for its brevity. I can't comprehend what is coming for my mom, the title wave of loss. But in the meantime we have this, tea together in the kitchen. Even if she doesn't remember it, I will. It is enough to get me through the next day."

  20. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Memoir of Maya, Indian American PhD who has daughter Zoe in SEA, 3000 mi away from her psychiatrist mom in NJ and suffers postpartum depression (though we discover Maya suffers from depression; even tried to slit her wrists because of her dad’s abuse when she was younger). Maya asks her mom to come out but her mom refuses. What ensues is the slow unraveling of what that means and how it unfolds. I liked the beginning best of all, perhaps because everything is initially portrayed so rosily (as a p Memoir of Maya, Indian American PhD who has daughter Zoe in SEA, 3000 mi away from her psychiatrist mom in NJ and suffers postpartum depression (though we discover Maya suffers from depression; even tried to slit her wrists because of her dad’s abuse when she was younger). Maya asks her mom to come out but her mom refuses. What ensues is the slow unraveling of what that means and how it unfolds. I liked the beginning best of all, perhaps because everything is initially portrayed so rosily (as a psychiatrist, her mom is a great listener and always wants to know the details, no matter how small.with her mom (she tells wonderful stories of her mom (she makes the dentist change his gloves after he adjusts the lamp—my dentist does that all the time!)). Maya struggles and asks her mom how she handled immigrating to foreign country and getting re-certified as doctor going through residency etc with a child in tow. The answers are always, “I just did,” and Maya takes that as rebuke on her character that she is struggling. I also enjoyed the ending; the middle did drag a little for me as that deals with what we learn is her mom’s early onset demential. Mom moves in and Maya is caretaker for nearly a year. It’s a tough year. Not least because she also learns the truth that her mom’s parents came to the US to help her when she was struggling and then took her older bro back to India for a few years until the mom got settled. Maya is incensed to learn this. And due to the dementia, it’s not clear why the mom kept it secret. Running throughout the book is the allegory of the mom carrying her child across the river when she realizes she cannot make it safely across — whom does she save? The automatic response is the child. Then, we don’t really know until we are in the situation. And finally, herself — “ The story is about the woman choosing herself. Once she makes that choice, everything follows.” “Once she makes that choice, everything follows. Could it really be that simple?” Don’t judge — “whatever a woman decides, it’s not easy.” It’s nuanced and complicated. I really like the format of short chapters; they are packed, and it is beautifully written. Favorite lines: We are daughters, reaching back in time for the mothers we wish we had and then finding ourselves (Maya brushing her daughter’s hair because that’s what she wishes she had; perhaps her mom bringing her things from Costco was what she wished had been done for her All that time as a new mother when I felt overburdened functioned like my time in the gym. It strengthened me. I know now how much I can carry. This is why the holidays can be stressful. Stories collide at the table. In your own life, you can establish your own narrative. You don’t have to be the athletic one or the artsy one. You can exist on your own terms. I don’t begrudge my mom for having chosen herself. I just wish that she had owned it. What does it mean for a woman to choose yourself? It means having the audacity to see her own worth. For so long, I could do this. I create illusions. Maybe this is how it works. The stories that inspire us are myths. We see what we want to see (maya is inspired by a woman at the gym who she thinks is doing pull ups. In fact, she used to band to support her.) What I know now about the river is that my daughter helps me cross it. She lights the way. Because of her, I see that choosing myself helps us both. I am better for this life in my arms, more aware, more resilient. My daughter gives me life in its glorious and teeming fullness.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    This is the second memoir I've read this year written by a young woman suffering from depression and part of a close knit immigrant family. Although I'm old, I relate to their experiences and can see that depression and the resulting call of suicide fall across all cultures and walks of life. As always, depression doesn't shadow a life without reason. For this author, her father was harsh and abusive, always expecting much and giving little. In spite of or perhaps because of him, her mother thri This is the second memoir I've read this year written by a young woman suffering from depression and part of a close knit immigrant family. Although I'm old, I relate to their experiences and can see that depression and the resulting call of suicide fall across all cultures and walks of life. As always, depression doesn't shadow a life without reason. For this author, her father was harsh and abusive, always expecting much and giving little. In spite of or perhaps because of him, her mother thrived in her career as a psychiatrist and although staying close, managed to maintain an emotional distance from the sufferings of her daughter This memoir is primarily the story of their relationship, the comfort of the early closeness, and the disappointment of having no support when needed the most. Yet the bond remains tight through all the stages of life, as Maya strives to nurture and care for the mother who allowed her abusive childhood to continue. The style of writing calls the reader to settle in to listen. Each chapter is short, part of a string of pearls, each perfect in the story it tells. Family life is always complex, and Maya's was even deeper because of her harsh father and the rigid facade her mother maintained, hiding the reality of her own life and how she coped. When dementia becomes part of the story, all is finally but painfully forced to come out. In so many ways, I relate to Maya's story. So many of us walk the same path. But there are a few elements that separate her from most of us who struggle with depression . Maya had a very supportive and wise husband to walk beside her. She didn't face the unraveling of her mother's health and emotions alone, nor the early time at the birth of her daughter when her depression was overwhelming. Her mother wasn't there, but she had his help, and he made sure she had the resources she needed. Most of us faced everything alone. In addition, Maya's mother prepared for these final years with ample resources to receive excellent care. This allowed Maya to make the decisions she did for her own health and her relationship with her young daughter. Not possible for most of us. Both of these factors were a great influence on the outcome of the story. I'm very thankful for the opportunity to read this book through Goodreads Giveaways.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Danna

    What We Carry is a short, beautiful memoir focused on the relationship between Maya and her mother. As a young girl, Maya idolized her mother. In comparison to the abuse she received from her father, Maya's mother was loving, protective, and always a stable force. As Maya faces becoming a mother herself, she is shocked to find her perspective of her mother shifting. This changing viewpoint rocks Maya's foundation and forces her to question many core beliefs. What We Carry is written in short cha What We Carry is a short, beautiful memoir focused on the relationship between Maya and her mother. As a young girl, Maya idolized her mother. In comparison to the abuse she received from her father, Maya's mother was loving, protective, and always a stable force. As Maya faces becoming a mother herself, she is shocked to find her perspective of her mother shifting. This changing viewpoint rocks Maya's foundation and forces her to question many core beliefs. What We Carry is written in short chapters that flow seamlessly from one to the next, which makes for quick reading. The love Maya feels for her mother is palpable, even as she faces struggles in the relationship. It is moving to see Maya cope with each discovery about her mother and herself as she navigates this new stage of life. I loved Maya's observations about motherhood. She posits that mothers often lack sufficient support systems, self-sacrifice shouldn't be a given, and raising children can be a time to find more of what makes you whole: "The whole thing makes me rethink motherhood. At awards ceremonies, someone always tearfully acknowledges their mother. 'She sacrificed everything for me,' the person says, breaking down. I don’t want Zoe going through life thinking that I gave myself up for her. I don’t want guilt to be her inheritance. My assumptions of motherhood have been all wrong. I feared I was supposed to have all the answers. I didn’t know my daughter would help me find them. I worried she would be an obstacle to my dreams, not the reason I went after them. Zoe makes me want to be the best version of myself. That isn’t sacrifice. It’s inspiration.. Maya also shares how difficult it is to ask for help. Her push for self-sufficiency is familiar to me, and I'm sure to many readers. There is an underlying reminder that we should be unapologetic about needing--or even wanting--support. There is also a push to recognize that people doing incredible things may have invisible support behind them; ask how they did it, ask for help, say no when you've had enough. This book is also deeply sad. It is a close look at depression, postpartum depression, and dementia. So while it is well-composed, fast reading, it is also heavy reading. I couldn't put it down. Highly recommended.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Lindsay

    If family shapes us, how can we break free from the myths and injustices? What if those stories were never true in the first place? "What if we aren't really mothers at all, but daughters, reaching back to be mothered?" This is a paraphrased section from Maya Lang's exquisite memoir, WHAT WE CARRY (Dial Press, April 2020), which I absolutely loved. This story shimmers with precision and perception; it's at once raw and graceful, a tender exploration of family and fraught mother-daughter relation If family shapes us, how can we break free from the myths and injustices? What if those stories were never true in the first place? "What if we aren't really mothers at all, but daughters, reaching back to be mothered?" This is a paraphrased section from Maya Lang's exquisite memoir, WHAT WE CARRY (Dial Press, April 2020), which I absolutely loved. This story shimmers with precision and perception; it's at once raw and graceful, a tender exploration of family and fraught mother-daughter relationships. Maya Lang grew up idolizing her 'can do' physician mother, who immigrated to the U.S. from India to complete her residency in psychiatry, while raising her children and keeping a traditional Indian home. Maya's mother had always been caring and supportive, but then...something shifted, something Maya didn't understand. Now, in Seattle, 3,000 miles from her mother, Maya is married and expecting her first baby. She's alone in a new city and a husband who travels for work. And the baby comes, and so, too does depression. Maya reaches out. Her mother is a psychiatrist; surely she will be of help. But she's not. She dismisses Maya, her worries and concerns. She says, "you'll find a way." Maya does find a way, but it's not easy. WHAT WE CARRY is so much more than estrangement and new motherhood; it's more than postpartum depression and anxiety; it's also about early-onset dementia and selfhood. It's about myths and stories we're told in childhood; illusions of our family origin. At each turn, there is deeper insight and understanding, it's about what happens as we let go; it's about motherless daughters, mothering ourselves, and parenting our parents. It's a must-read. I was reminded of the work of Melissa Cistaro (PIECES OF MY MOTHER) meets SHADOW DAUGHTER (Harriet Brown), with a touch of WITHOUT A MAP (Meredith Hall) and perhaps maybe MOTHERLESS DAUGHTERS (Hope Edelman). For all my reviews, including author interviews, please see: www.leslielindsay.com|Always with a Book

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mjdrean

    Once again I stray from the consensus. This is the age-old story of mother/daughter dynamics. I've had my own challenges as both a daughter and a mother so I am always drawn to stories such as this. (One of the best, though not a memoir but a novel, is Amy and Isabel by Elizabeth Strout.) I have not, though, experienced the horrendous task of a loved one being slowly swallowed up by dementia. So I'm a bit reticent to find too much fault. I'll just say, I grew tired of her page after page of "poo Once again I stray from the consensus. This is the age-old story of mother/daughter dynamics. I've had my own challenges as both a daughter and a mother so I am always drawn to stories such as this. (One of the best, though not a memoir but a novel, is Amy and Isabel by Elizabeth Strout.) I have not, though, experienced the horrendous task of a loved one being slowly swallowed up by dementia. So I'm a bit reticent to find too much fault. I'll just say, I grew tired of her page after page of "poor me." The author started off the book with an Indian parable of a woman crossing a river with her baby. The woman gets to a place where she can no longer go forward or back because of the depth of the river and the strength of the currents. She has a choice: save herself or the baby. But, if she doesn't save herself, how can she save the baby? Ah, well, perhaps that is the point. But my takeaway is that mothers and daughters are human. Don't put them on a pedestal, look in a mirror, and try really hard not to judge. There is a happy ending here: the author makes the same choice her mother made over the years.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bryn

    This memoir about the arc of our perception of and relationship with our mothers, and that we carve out with our own daughters, perhaps resonated with me more at this particular moment in my life: when my grandmother has moved in with my mother; when I am now aiding my grandmother with her personal hygiene; and when my own daughters are becoming their own people. The mother as myth, motherhood as myth. Lang eloquently captures the trajectory of her perception of her mother as an all-capable and This memoir about the arc of our perception of and relationship with our mothers, and that we carve out with our own daughters, perhaps resonated with me more at this particular moment in my life: when my grandmother has moved in with my mother; when I am now aiding my grandmother with her personal hygiene; and when my own daughters are becoming their own people. The mother as myth, motherhood as myth. Lang eloquently captures the trajectory of her perception of her mother as an all-capable and all-knowing superwoman to a very flawed and ultimately very dependent human--nicely juxtaposed along her own path as a mother, trying to carve out her identity both as and separate and apart from being a mother. I've long said regarding parenting that we're not making the same mistakes we perceive our parents to have made; rather we're all just screwing up our kids in our very own ways. Lang articulates it much more beautifully, "Maybe at our most maternal, we aren't mothers at all. We're daughters, reaching back in time for the mothers we wish we'd had and then finding ourselves." This is a quick and well-paced read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    What does it take for a woman to choose herself? Lang asks this of herself throughout this beautifully crafted memoir. So often are women labeled and characterized as caregivers, the self-care sacrificers. Women have a greater tendency to give up more of themselves in order to care for others. This story is one that is often heard, but not shared. If we're lucky, our parents will live to ripe old ages and die peacefully in their sleep. At least, that's my fantasy. Lang shares a very different re What does it take for a woman to choose herself? Lang asks this of herself throughout this beautifully crafted memoir. So often are women labeled and characterized as caregivers, the self-care sacrificers. Women have a greater tendency to give up more of themselves in order to care for others. This story is one that is often heard, but not shared. If we're lucky, our parents will live to ripe old ages and die peacefully in their sleep. At least, that's my fantasy. Lang shares a very different reality. Her mother diagnosed with Alzheimer's moves in with her and her family. An entire different world emerges. Lang tries to make peace with her past while attempting to absorb whatever is left of her mother's deteriorating brain. There's a magical way Lang writes about her illusion of what she created her mom to be as opposed to the authenticity of what was in front of her. Parenting parents is hard, but giving back to the ones that cared for us is a great sacrifice. Unfortunately, the challenge is making sure you don't lose yourself in the process.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Affinito

    This book was a beautifully written, highly addictive avalanche of emotions from cover to cover. I came into this book expecting to gain insight into Maya’s life and relationship with her mother, hopeful that I could learn from her stories to better write my own. Instead, I gained an insight into my own life, my own expectations, my own relationships, my own sense of motherhood and mothering. I laughed, I cried and I cried some more as Maya seemed to speak directly to me, leaving me with lessons This book was a beautifully written, highly addictive avalanche of emotions from cover to cover. I came into this book expecting to gain insight into Maya’s life and relationship with her mother, hopeful that I could learn from her stories to better write my own. Instead, I gained an insight into my own life, my own expectations, my own relationships, my own sense of motherhood and mothering. I laughed, I cried and I cried some more as Maya seemed to speak directly to me, leaving me with lessons on the page that I could not escape. I do not have the words to adequately state how much this book has truly impacted my heart, so I’ll just leave it at this: This book has forever changed how I view myself, my mother, motherhood and the tangled bonds woven between each.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Judy G

    This is a powerful beautiful honest memoir by a wonderful lady I wish I knew and she is Indian American with PhD married and she is a mother a sister a daughter. This is about mostly her relationship to herself to her daughter Zoe and her mother a retired psychiatrist. It is also has as its background a possibly invented mythical tale from India about a woman in a river who has to decide between saving herself or her daughter. I dont want to tell anything I know having read this book except read This is a powerful beautiful honest memoir by a wonderful lady I wish I knew and she is Indian American with PhD married and she is a mother a sister a daughter. This is about mostly her relationship to herself to her daughter Zoe and her mother a retired psychiatrist. It is also has as its background a possibly invented mythical tale from India about a woman in a river who has to decide between saving herself or her daughter. I dont want to tell anything I know having read this book except read it! from Judy g

  29. 4 out of 5

    Teri

    Memoir about a young Indian(born in US) mother who though she feels very bonded to her own mother who emigrated from Indi and becomes a psychiatrist who works with elder patients w/dementia. She discovers things about her mom and feels like she didn't really know her at all. Maya grows up in the northeast, briefly moves to west coast and after having her daughter moves back. Really liked her writing and how she shares her feelings and the changes in her relationship with her mom. Dad was difficu Memoir about a young Indian(born in US) mother who though she feels very bonded to her own mother who emigrated from Indi and becomes a psychiatrist who works with elder patients w/dementia. She discovers things about her mom and feels like she didn't really know her at all. Maya grows up in the northeast, briefly moves to west coast and after having her daughter moves back. Really liked her writing and how she shares her feelings and the changes in her relationship with her mom. Dad was difficult, one much older brother.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    "What We Carry: A Memoir" by Maya Shanbhag Lang. This is the memoir of Maya Lang and her search for truth. Maya loved her mother, who was a psychiatrist, and idolized her successes in life, putting her up on a pedestal. When Maya became a mother herself, things changed, perceptions changed. Her mother always in charge and helpful in the past, in this scenario she was not. Maya being puzzled and hurt by her mom's unhelpfulness, embarked on a journey to find out who she is, in light of her percepti "What We Carry: A Memoir" by Maya Shanbhag Lang. This is the memoir of Maya Lang and her search for truth. Maya loved her mother, who was a psychiatrist, and idolized her successes in life, putting her up on a pedestal. When Maya became a mother herself, things changed, perceptions changed. Her mother always in charge and helpful in the past, in this scenario she was not. Maya being puzzled and hurt by her mom's unhelpfulness, embarked on a journey to find out who she is, in light of her perceptions of her mom. A tender story. I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway.

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