Jessamine Chan’s short stories have appeared in Tin House and Epoch. A former reviews editor at Publishers Weekly, she holds an MFA from Columbia University’s School of the Arts and a BA from Brown University. Her work has received support from the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Wurlitzer Foundation, the Jentel Foundation, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, the Anderson Center, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Ragdale Foundation. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter.
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Praise for Books
“Jessamine Chan’s infuriatingly timely debut novel, The School for Good Mothers, takes this widely accepted armchair quarterbacking of motherhood and ratchets it up to the level of a surveillance state—one that may read more like a preview than a dystopia, depending on your faith in the future of Roe v. Wade…Chilling…clever.” —New York Times Book Review
“Chan collects the judgments and pressures that society places on women who deign to be multifaceted and translates them into a propulsive, perceptive story.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Enthralling...Woven seamlessly throughout are societal assumptions and stereotypes about mothers, especially mothers of color, and their consequences. Chan’s imaginative flourishes render the mothers’ vulnerability to social pressures and governmental whims nightmarish and palpable. It’s a powerful story, made more so by its empathetic and complicated heroine.” —Publishers Weekly
“An enthralling dystopian drama that makes complex points about parenting with depth and feeling.” —Kirkus Reviews
“This scarily prescient novel that’s reminiscent of Orwell and Vonnegut explores the depths of parents’ love, how strictly we judge mothers and each other and the terrifying potential of government overreach.” —Good Housekeeping
“A surreal, dazzling, witty tale.” —People
“[An] intense, unputdownable debut that will doubtless spark conversation about what makes a good or bad mother.” —Oprah.com
“The School for Good Mothers picks up the mantle of writers like Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro, with their skin-crawling themes of surveillance, control, and technology; but it also stands on its own as a remarkable, propulsive novel. At a moment when state control over women’s bodies (and autonomy) feels ever more chilling, the book feels horrifyingly unbelievable and eerily prescient all at once.” —Vogue
“This debut novel was so captivating, thought-provoking, and beautifully written, everything I tried to pick up next paled in comparison…It was all I wanted to talk about, think about, and read.” —Today show
“It sounds dark and weird, and it is kind of dark and weird, but I found it really, really absorbing.” —Linda Holmes, NPR
“It’s about Big Things like state violence, family separation, so-called ‘perfect parenting,’ and the unrealistic demands of motherhood, with a little sci-fi fun!” —Nylon
In this taut and explosive debut novel, one lapse in judgment lands a young mother in a government reform program where custody of her child hangs in the balance.
Frida Liu is struggling. She doesn’t have a career worthy of her Chinese immigrant parents’ sacrifices. She can’t persuade her husband, Gust, to give up his wellness-obsessed younger mistress. Only with Harriet, their cherubic daughter, does Frida finally attain the perfection expected of her. Harriet may be all she has, but she is just enough.
Until Frida has a very bad day.
The state has its eyes on mothers like Frida. The ones who check their phones, letting their children get injured on the playground; who let their children walk home alone. Because of one moment of poor judgment, a host of government officials will now determine if Frida is a candidate for a Big Brother–like institution that measures the success or failure of a mother’s devotion.
Faced with the possibility of losing Harriet, Frida must prove that a bad mother can be redeemed. That she can learn to be good.
A searing page-turner that is also a transgressive novel of ideas about the perils of “perfect” upper-middle-class parenting; the violence enacted upon women by both the state and, at times, one another; the systems that separate families; and the boundlessness of love, The School for Good Mothers introduces, in Frida, an everywoman for the ages. Using dark wit to explore the pains and joys of the deepest ties that bind us, Chan has written a modern literary classic.