Many people dream about coming to America to start a new life and then, after a while, want to bring more family over. Because of the nature of Salt Houses by Hala Alyan and A Long Time Gone by Karen White, much of the Ladies Who Brunch discussion on the books was spent swapping stories about home countries, which included Israel, Palestine, Poland, and Lebanon. With this in mind, two themes among these books were generational conflict and peer pressure.
Generational conflict is the difference of opinion that happens between generations regarding beliefs and values. It is sad to see that, as the Ladies Who Brunch discussed, this happens a little too often in the workplace. Each of these two novels focused on mothers and daughters as primary characters. The novels incorporated a constant power struggle to either keep the family’s traditions or to break off from them. Too commonly, this created tension within the books’ families.
Similarly, peer pressure played a big role among the characters. Social pressure today focuses on getting a well-paying job and having children. Salt Houses spans decades from the 1960s to the present, while A Long Time Gone straddles the 1920s and the contemporary. When the novels’ historical portions took place, peer pressure influenced – among other things – body image and marriage based on insecurity. Women, sometimes without choice, had to do the “norm.”
In both books, women take the fall in power struggles. The next book the group will read, Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, offers the other side of the generational gap and shows that women can overcome biases to achieve something greater. In the last Ladies Who Brunch, Dinitia Smith’s The Honeymoon showed the life of a woman who defied expectations: George Eliot.
Rachel Slaiman is a published freelance writer of several articles in both print and online as well an editor and copy editor of aspiring author’s manuscripts. She is currently the co-recording secretary for the WNBA and co-chair for the Brooklyn Book Festival. Rachel holds a B.A. in Communications and a M.S. from Pace University. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and writing short stories.