Community Read Event Covers Gender and Identity in Lee Novel

Community Read Event
Panel at Community Read Event (Charlotte Schofield)

By Charlotte Schofield

Four panelists get comfortable at the front of the room, shuffling their typed notes at the long table and booted up their laptop presentations. Each of them sported a copy of “Everything I Never Told You”, weathered and tabbed with brightly colored sticky notes, the pages covered with penned notes and underlined sections. The panel of female Doctors and professors sat bright-eyed and excited as audience members began to settle down with their refreshments, ready to delve into the world of “Everything I Never Told You.”

On Wednesday, March 6th Fitchburg State University held a panel and group discussion exploring various topics and issues that intersect within Celest Ng’s novel “Everything I Never Told You.”

Panelists Dr. Katharine Covino-Poutasse, Dr. Danette Day, Dr. Lena Ficco, and Dr. Kori Ryan came to discuss with the audience members the intersections of Gender performance, cultural identity, the “Imposter Phenomena”, and the Lee’s behavior as a family dynamic in the novel.

Dr. Katharine Covino who has studied and spoken on topics such as Critical Literacy, Critical pedagogy, and Early-elementary pedagogy at Fitchburg State University was able to comment on the performance of gender in Ng’s novel. “How we perform our identity to our parents, partners, even our own children effect our actions in life, based solely on what we think they might expect of us.”

Dr. Covino calls this the “Performance of Self”, where Lydia in Everything I Never Told You performs the so called “Popular Girl” in front of her Father by pretending to have long phone calls with friends, all the while talking to the dial tone for hours. Dr. Covino and many others at the discussion agreed that this “performance” was what possibly pressured Lydia and the other members of the family to lie to each other during their lives.

Immersion of self into one’s identity was also an important aspect of Ng’s novel that the panelists were able to discuss, Dr. Danielle Day spoke on this intersection during the discussion. Dr. Day spoke on the cultural aspects of Ng’s characters identities, how some struggled to blend in to their world while others yearned to stand out in the crowd.

“[Everything I Never Told You] spoke to me through its themes of biracial identity, and I could hear and feel the same experiences I went through growing up. The physical characteristics of racial identity are noticed first in different groups of people; however, we don’t realize what an impact race has on our individual psychology too.”

The panel discussion brought about many topics revolving the intersections of gender, identity and race, giving both the audience members and the panelists present the opportunity to analyze Celeste Ng’s novel through the lenses of students, professors, Doctors, parents and people of the modern world.

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