How to dress your children, and yourself

the book:
Digging to America by Anne Tyler

published 2006      chapter 2

[Two baby girls attending a party with their respective families]
Susan wore blue denim overalls, faded convincingly at the knees and a chambray shirt. Her jacket, also blue denim, had a tractor appliqued on one pocket…

Jin-Ho… was stocky and bloomingly healthy-looking, with fat cheeks and bright laughing eyes. She still wore that squared-off hairstyle she had arrived with, seemingly all of a piece, and although she too was in corduroys, her top was a multi-coloured, quilted affair with striped sleeves and a black silk sash – the kind of thing [she] recalled from the days when Sami and Ziba were researching Korea…

[Mothers Bitsy and Ziba are talking:] Bitsy sat up straighter, as if she’d just had a thought. ‘You notice I’m wearing black and white’ she told Ziba.

Ziba nodded, wide-eyed.

‘That’s because babies don’t see colours. Only black and white. I’ve worn nothing but black and white from the day that Jin-Ho arrived.’

‘Really!’ Ziba said, and she looked down at her rose turtleneck.

‘You might want to do that,’ Bitsy told her.

‘Oh yes, maybe I should.’…

When they came to Susan’s first birthday party [t]hey brought Jin-Ho in full Korean costume – a brilliant kimono-like affair and a pointed hat with a chin strap and little embroidered cloth shoes…

Susan wore a rosebud-print dress her other grandma had bought at a fancy shop in Georgetown, and the pale pink made her black hair and black eyes even more startlingly beautiful.


Two families in the USA have each adopted a child from Korea: Susan has come to a family of Iranian descent, while Jin-Ho’s new parents are pretty much all-American. The two families become friends and meet up regularly, and the differences in the little girls’ clothes mark up bigger differences, right from the beginning.

This book is very funny about parenting styles, about babycare, about cultural differences and about immigration. It seems to divide readers: some are annoyed by its open, confiding style, as if the author is just shrugging her shoulders and saying what happened, no judgements. The story seems to just drift along. But Anne Tyler is cleverer than that, and it is her 17th novel – she intends it to seem casual, but there is a lot of underlying structure. It is a very even-handed book, no-one is portrayed as superior, but anyone who has been in any way an immigrant to the USA , from anywhere, will find a lot to empathize with. And there are many very very funny scenes, descriptions, lines.

The bookmark is sold by
trendkorean, a bargain at $2.50.


  1. You've made me remember what I love about Anne Tyler's books - think it's time to read another one.

    1. Yes -I'd missed out a few, this was the first I'd read for ages, and she completely pulled me in with it...

  2. That bit about wearing black and white is amazing.
    And I think the very first book I read when Joanne asked me to try out her book group in 1996 was an Anne Tyler. I will read her again...

    1. Do you mean you DIDN'T wear only B&W when the children were little...? I did particularly enjoy all the little comparisons of differing parenting styles.

  3. I've never looked good in black above the waist. Wearing white again in my working wardrobe Now.


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