Ling Ma on Rachel Ingalls’s Mrs. Caliban
This Week from the Windham-Campbell Prizes Podcast
The Windham-Campbell Prizes Podcast features a series of conversations with the 2023 Windham-Campbell Prize winners about their favorite books.
Ling Ma joins Windham-Campbell Prizes director Michael Kelleher to talk about tuning into the same frequency as Rachel Ingalls, crying on airplanes, and what it means to write about human-cryptid romance.
From the episode:
Michael Kelleher: I was really amazed at like how much sympathy I felt for both of them. I think Ingalls is really good at drawing these like really rich characters, and doing so by like constructing an environment that, you know is familiar and recognizable and yet, not as you would want it to be, right? It’s very particular in drawing upon Dorothy’s grief and on Larry’s suffering in a way that, that doesn’t allow your sense of the place or your familiarity with the place to make you feel comfortable as a reader.
Ling Ma: You get the sense of maybe estrangement that Dorothy has, but also the sense that she has to—feels that she has to pass as whatever societal role she’s been assigned. And I guess they’re similar in that way, her and Larry, and maybe that’s forms, you know, the basis of their connection is that they’re both, well, she has to pass and I guess he can’t even be seen.
I think for Dorothy, she knows, she always knows there’s a distinction between herself and like the fact that she has to pass is always very clear to her and it’s very cumbersome. And I think living each day feeling as if you have to pass for something else is very tiring. And and I think that sense of exhaustion is especially prevalent maybe in the earlier part of the novel.
MK: Hmm. What do you think she’s passing?
LM: Well, she’s passing… as what she is, which a woman. I guess not quite a mother, but yeah. She’s passing as the things that she is.
For a full episode transcript, click here.
Ling Ma is a writer hailing from Fujian, Utah, and Kansas. She wrote the novel Severance and the story collection Bliss Montage, both published by FSG. Her work has received the Kirkus Prize, a Whiting Award, an NEA fellowship, the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, and the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award. Both titles have been named to the NY Times Notable Books of the Year and her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Granta, and more. She has taught creative writing and English at Cornell University and the University of Chicago, where she currently serves as an assistant professor of practice. She lives in Chicago with her family.
The Windham-Campbell Prizes Podcast is a program of The Windham-Campbell Prizes, which are administered by Yale University Library’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.