6 books like “Afong Moy’s Many Daughters”, according to Jamie Ford

Jenna Bush Hager said “The Many Daughters of Afong Moy,” her August Read With Jenna pick, “amazed” her. Jamie Ford’s novel spans 250 years within the same family tree, all dating back to Afong Moy, considered the first Chinese woman in the United States. Through the novel, we see how Afong’s experiences with love and abandonment reverberate through the generations – and perhaps resonate in their DNA.

Ford had to channel his inner poet for the book, which features the Washington Poet Laureate as the main character. Speaking to TODAY, Ford said he read the work of poet Andrea Gibson to inspire the parts of the book about Dorothy Moy. “If you just want to be blown away, just go to YouTube, just type in Andrea Gibson, listen and watch some of their performances,” Ford said.

While there’s no book quite like this “epigenetic love story,” as Ford describes it, the author has recommended six books that are in conversation with her epic romance.

Here are six books to read after “The Many Daughters of Afong Moy,” which also has a bibliography at the end for your literary perusal.

“You Better Be Lightning” by Andrea Gibson

Ford considers Andrea Gibson to be one of his favorite poets. Gibson is the author of five collected books of poetry and is known for his rousing poetry recitations (listen and get chills). “When I feel lost, I turn to Andrea Gibson. I also turn to their poems when I feel hopeful, joyful, when I’m partying, when I’m nervous, when I feel invisible, and sometimes when I just need to feel alive,” Ford told TODAY.

“What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing Complex Trauma” by Stephanie Foo

“The Many Daughters of Afong Moy” explores, through fiction, how inherited trauma plays out across generations. “What My Bones Know” takes a non-fiction approach, as author Stephanie Foo grapples with her childhood. Both of her parents abandoned her when she was a teenager. As she thrived professionally, Foo’s pain created a shaky foundation. “As agonizing as it is hopeful, this deep dive into complex PTSD and generational trauma is the rare memory that left me with a better understanding of myself,” Ford said.

Timber Hawkeye’s “Buddhist Boot Camp”

Buddhism is a major theme in “Afong Moy’s Many Daughters”, one of the book’s most pivotal scenes set in a monastery. For those looking to learn more about religion, Ford recommends this digestible collection of Buddhist teachings. The book is designed to be read in any order; treat it as a reflective exercise rather than conventional reading.

“The Dalai Lama said, ‘Don’t try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist; use it to be better, whatever you already are.’ This book made me something better, what that something is, I’m still working on it. Stay tuned,” Ford said.

“Love of Water Memory” by Jennie Shortridge

After being diagnosed with amnesia, Lucie Walker cannot remember anything from her past. The more she learns, the more she hates the person she was. Ford called it a “beautiful novel about what the mind forgets and what the heart remembers”, saying it is “a story of memories like shadows, lengthened and distorted by time, until ‘they overshadow cherished loves, family ties and painful truths’.

“Perma Red” by Debra Magpie Earling

“Perma Red” is written by Earling, a member of the Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation, and follows the life of a young woman on and off a reservation in the 1940s. Ford said the book is “transcendent , powerful and has a gravity of its own” and “belongs in college classrooms as well as book clubs”.

“Take My Hand” by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

“Take My Hand” is likely to open your eyes. Based on true events, the novel follows a 23-year-old nurse, Civil Townsend, working in Alabama during the Jim Crow era. She wakes up to terrible harm being done to other black people and sounds the alarm. “This powerful novel finds humanity in one of the most inhuman chapters in American history. ‘Take My Hand’ will enrage you. It will illuminate you. It just might redeem you,” Ford said.


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