Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Molly Patterson was born in St. Louis and lived in China for several years. Her work has appeared in several magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly and The Iowa Review. She was the 2012-2013 Writer-in-Residence at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., and is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize.

Patterson applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, Rebellion, and reported the following:
Rebellion is split up into sections for each of its four main characters, and page 69 comes from the first section that features Juanlan, a young Chinese woman who has reluctantly come home to her provincial town after graduating college. In this scene, she awakens the first morning she’s home and her mother quizzes her about the book she’s reading, a Chinese translation of Pride and Prejudice:
Juanlan shrugs. “We read it in my British literature class last autumn; I wanted to try it again in Chinese. It’s a romance.”

“Oh, romance,” her mother says, pursing her lips in a kiss, and then laughs at herself as she leaves the room.

The picture on the cover of the book is of a woman and man, half turned away from each other. She barely understood anything when she read it in English, but the characters had struck her as exotic, their world as lovely and delicate as lace. Rereading in Chinese, it is all too familiar. The people are small; they live in a small place; they take, it seems, only the smallest of risks.
Juanlan’s disappointment in the book mirrors her disappointment at being back home. She’d had dreams of living in a big city and working for a foreign company, not of working for her parents running their second-rate hotel, and helping to care for her father.

In the same scene, she talks to her mother about Lulu, her sister-in-law. Juanlan’s mother is angry at Lulu for ignoring the dietary restrictions that all Chinese women follow when they’re pregnant:
“…Your brother’s wife, she’s careless about her health. I tell her she should eat only boiled chicken and plain vegetables, and she says she wants spicy pork. Yesterday at lunch, she asked where I was keeping the lajiao. She wanted to put it on her rice.”

“Did you give it to her?”

“Of course not!” Her mother watches as Juanlan spits into the sink. “You tell her, maybe she’ll listen. She’s going to hurt the baby, eating spicy food.”
Juanlan and Lulu have never gotten along very well, but in the pages that follow, they quickly strike up a friendship based on their mutual unhappiness. They both feel stifled by their family’s expectations; they both feel powerless in a rapidly changing society, and suspect that they’re among the group that will be left behind. More than anything, they’re bored—a feeling that has the potential to get them into trouble when a new source of interest arrives on the scene: an American man who’s eager to befriend them.
Visit Molly Patterson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue