Cover Image: Joan Is Okay

Joan Is Okay

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Member Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC! All thoughts and opinions are my own.

This is the first "pandemic fiction" story that I've read. COVID-19 is a topic that I've really been avoiding in fictional media, but I thoroughly enjoyed this read and hope it becomes a staple recommendation for those looking to either 1) reflect on the impact of the pandemic in the present or 2) learn what it was like when looking back from the future. I really appreciated that the story was told in a very matter-of-fact way, as this made the character easy to connect to. I also love how it's an OwnVoices Chinese-American story -- this is an incredibly valuable, if painful, perspective from which to view the onset of COVID-19. 

More than a discussion of the pandemic, this book is ultimately an exploration of Joan's identity and her perspective on what "home" really means. As a daughter of South Asian immigrants myself, I found so many quotes in this novel that hit a little too close to home. I also appreciated the portrayal of complex relationships with parents, family members, and white peers that "mean well". No character was one-dimensional, and each placed burdens on our protagonist in a different way.

Overall, this largely character-driven book does leave me with some heavy, reflective feelings. Reading it was an incredibly valuable experience, and I look forward to picking up more of Wang's work in the future.
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Weike Wang’s newest novel, Joan is Okay, is an exploration in being oneself. 
Joan is settled in her life, a career in medicine, single, content. Everyone around her - coworkers, bosses, family, her new neighbor - all wants something else for her, but Joan is Okay. 

The novel follows Joan through the loss of her father and the onslaught of Covid-19 hitting New York. With those two major events in play, the novel reads surprisingly calm. The depiction of a covid world was surprising, I hadn’t prepared for a covid novel and had to put the book down for a bit, but Wang adds a great perspective.

Joan is a great character, her family, friends, and coworkers are so well written they felt real.
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Joan is American-born from her Chinese parents. She is a mid-thirties ICU attending physician in New York City, who loves her work. Her entire life is her work. Until her supervisor suggests she take some time off to be with her family. Joan and her family are not close. They exist in the same space occasionally, but not at Joan’s preference. This book takes the reader into the cultural differences between a Chinese American and her parents, as well as the differences between a Chinese American and the rest of Americans. The reader also will look at the dynamics between Joan and her brother’s family, who have completely different ideals. I left this book wondering why I had not read more books with a Chinese American focus. Thank you to Random House Publishing and NetGalley for this ARC.
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Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House for gifting me a digital ARC of this very relevant novel by Weike Wang.  4 stars!  I didn't read her first book, Chemistry, but it's now on my TBR!

Joan is a Chinese American who never quite fits into her world.  Very smart and dedicated, she's now working as a doctor in NYC.  Her Chinese parents immigrated to the US where Joan was born; her older brother, Fang, joined them years later.  Once the children were settled, her parents moved back to China.  When her father dies suddenly and her mother comes to the US for a visit with Fang, Joan's world starts changing even more.  Family differences are at the forefront, as are things in her own home environment.  And it's right before the pandemic, which of course changes everything.

This book is fascinating - lots of immigration topics to ponder, as well as family, work/balance, men/women roles in work and home environments, as well as personal choices and fulfillment.  Joan is quirky - I love quirky characters!
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Joan is Okay centers around the unconventional workaholic Joan, an ICU doctor. We watch her navigate her strength: working, and her weakness: meaningful human connection. We see the hardships Asians faced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic through the eyes of Joan, and peripherally through her family members. Joan isn't entirely likable, and yet, it's hard not to root for her. For anyone pondering if this book is overbearing with pandemic talk, I can assure it is not -  it has just the right amount, and through an interesting lens. 
This quick read (under 250 pages) is something I could have read in one sitting if I had the time. I wanted to know what foibles Joan would encounter next and what awkward interactions were going to ensue. 

I haven't read any of Weike Wangs other work, but Joan is Okay makes me want to explore her other writing more.
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I think I might just be the wrong kind of reader for this one. The writing is too spare and the plot too non-existent. My favorite parts of this book were when Joan began to deal with the COVID pandemic, and I found myself wishing there had been some more time spent exploring that.
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JOAN IS OKAY by Weike Wang (Chemistry) is one of those novels that you read relatively quickly because you care about the main character and want to know what happens to her. At the same time, you want to savor the clever writing and the many perceptive comments. Wang, an award-winning author and a "5 Under 35" honoree of the National Book Foundation, introduces readers to a 30-something female doctor who is defined by her work in a large urban hospital. Joan (or Jiu-an, her Chinese name, or Joan-na, as her mother calls her) is the child of Chinese immigrants and the distance between cultures as well as the distance between family members is hurtful and puzzling to her. For example, she asks, "Was it harder to be a woman? Or an immigrant? Or a Chinese person outside of China? And why did being a good any of the above require you to edit yourself down so you could become someone else?" Kirkus calls her an "idiosyncratic character," and in many ways Joan does appear to have trained herself to suppress feelings about other people, to be somewhat neurodivergent in her ability to process social cues. That makes for some humorous interactions in this present-day story. Wang also includes numerous references to the early days of the pandemic which will heighten awareness and emotions for readers. This excellent novel centers around a key question: "Who really wanted to be different? I wondered. And to be treated differently for things about them that couldn't be changed. Most people who were different just wanted to be the same." 

JOAN IS OKAY is a fabulous Book Group Choice since it will prompt much discussion – here is the guide provided by the publisher:

Other favorite comments: "If learning required mistakes than teaching required watching different people make the same mistakes." OR "I had become that daughter, the overprotective and possibly annoying kind, the daughter who believes that she is also the parent to a parent who doesn't like being a child." OR "And even if I hadn't been born here, had I been one of those kids brought over by her parents at age two, five, twelve, then naturalized, what made them and their families any less American if they were the most American of all things, an immigrant in search of better days?"
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Joan Is Okay - 4⭐

Thank you to @Netgalley and the publisher for my digital advanced copy. All opinions are my own. 

Chemistry from this author has been on my to-read list for years, so I jumped at the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book - so glad I did!

This character driven novel follows Joan as a workaholic doctor and her dry humor gives a wry take on her experience as a child born to immigrant parents.  The story follows Joan as she jumps back in forth in time, from navigating relationships with family and co-workers in the present, to the struggles, stereotypes, and racism her family experienced while she was growing up in pursuit of success in America.  Joan is a quirky narrator - she's direct and literal - and is ok with not meeting others expectations of her.  The insights into her culture were really interesting; in particular, translations of certain expressions and phrases, as well as the meaning of Chinese words and how beautifully thoughtful the characters are written. I especially enjoyed reading Joan's take on the pandemic, as a Chinese-American doctor.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. I tend to struggle with fluid, character driven novels that jump back and forth in time, but this one worked well for me.  If character driven novels are your thing, I'd recommend this, especially if you want to continue to learn about experiences of children of immigrants. 

Content warnings: death of a parent (not detailed, but an ongoing theme), the pandemic

Full review on bookstagram to come.
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Joan is a 36 year old Chinese American, her parents who came to American in search of a better life.  Joan works as an attending physician in a busy ICU unit of a New York City hospital.  She works long hours, sometimes 7-days a week and doesn't have a life outside of work.  In fact, when her father dies unexpectedly back in Shanghai, Joan goes to China taking only the weekend off to be with her family.
By contrast, Joan's brother Fang is living his version of the American dream in an upscale Connecticut neighborhood. He's married, into material possessions and lots of vacations for the family. His wife can't understand why Joan does not like jewelry, shopping or vacations.

When Joan is forced by the HR Department at the hospital to take a proper bereavement leave, she is forced to reflect on the past and her present situation.  

This story takes place around the early pandemic and has both a serious side and some fun scenes as well.  Joan's neighbor for example, is a compulsive shopper who wants to be a minimalist like Joan, giving away his possessions and then repurchasing things he gave away once again.  In many ways Joan is Okay is a quiet kind of story yet it gives the reader much to think about and, I think it would make a good discussion book as well.  Joan is a great character study as were her family members. She reminded my of Keiko in the Convenience Store Woman, another book which I loved as, at least on audio, Joan appears to be somewhere on the spectrum.  I enjoyed this book, it was a quick, interesting listen (the audio book was just over six hours.) I do wish that the ending was not quite as rushed. Recommended.

(Thanks go toRandom House/ NetGalley and PRH Audio for providing me this book at no cost in exchange for my unbiased review. The book releases in the US 1/18/2022.)
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Joan Is Okay (pub. January 18, 2022) by Weike Wang, follows NYC resident, attending intensive care doctor Joan through the aftermath of the death of her father in China, and the weekend she took away from work to attend his funeral. It follows her through a forced bereavement leave, through the start of the coronavirus situation that begins in Wuhan, China.

Content warning: There are many descriptions of characters’ heights and weights–Joan recites them each time she describes a new person that’s not in her family. The book begins with Joan thinking about “how much space a person takes up and how much use that person provides.” She describes herself as just under five feet tall and just under a hundred pounds, and seems taken aback when a patient “in a backless gown and nonslip tube socks”, “five six and 290 pounds” was wary of her because she looks like a mouse. There are no explicit judgments made of people based on their height and weight, but the implication from the start of the book was that how could a patient of such size be afraid of her, being so small in comparison to him? So I was very apprehensive that the book would be full of anti-fat bias. I was pleasantly surprised that the first page was probably the worst of it. There was one place where she described China after she returned, that both the people and the buildings were “taller and fatter” and that “obesity would soon be a problem, since food was ubiquitous.” But that’s the extent of anti-fat bias that I read. Mostly there is no mention of fatness.

There is the implication that Joan is on the autism spectrum, but her differences could also be cultural, as she was raised in the U.S. by immigrant parents from China who went back to China after she turned 18 and went off to college. In a flashback, she remembers that school counselors had wanted her to be tested because she “has trouble connecting with peers, is rigid, inflexible, things have to be done a certain way according to Joan” but because of the language barrier with her parents, that never happened, and once she got to medical school, she never had time for counseling. She hates the term “different.”

She has a complicated relationship with the rest of her family–her mother, who comes to visit and stays with her brother in Connecticut after the funeral–and her brother and his family, who constantly put pressure on her to start a family of her own. But Joan has never had a boyfriend or any sort of romantic relationship. To her, work is everything. She enjoys being a cog in the wheel of the hospital, so being forced to take bereavement leave has her at a loss. And her brother is a very successful businessman, so his advice to her about her career in a teaching hospital often doesn’t make sense.

It’s something of a “slice of life” book without an action-defined plot, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Joan does grow through the book, though, realizing by the end that “wasn’t I at least a person of two languages and two cultures?” and standing up for herself more. She and her brother learn how they can communicate better, especially when their mother is stuck in the U.S. because flights to China are canceled for months.

Sometimes the author will explain a Chinese character–the pieces that make it up and thus, the many-layered meaning of the character, which I loved. Overall, I would recommend reading it to learn the perspective of a Chinese-American intensive care doctor in New York and her extended family at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the caveat that there is some anti-fat bias at the beginning and many mentions of height and weight..
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Joan is Okay is my first book by Weike Wang. I was drawn to the story because it featured a single woman who didn't feel the need to get married. As a single woman who has never married, I was excited to see someone like me in a book. It is rare to have a main character that doesn't develop a romantic relationship over the course of the story. 

While I liked Joan, she isn't anything like me. She doesn't have a life outside of work. She wants to be at work more than anything - it is where she feels at home. 

Joan is an Asian-American, born in the U.S. to Chinese immigrants who works as an ICU physician in New York City.  She has an older brother who was left behind in China for several years while their parents established themselves in the U.S. (apparently her parents never told her she had a brother until he arrived in the U.S.). Their parents returned to China as soon as Joan went off to college (Harvard).

Having read memoirs of immigrants, I know that life is hard for them - especially for Chinese immigrants it seems. Children are often pushed to succeed, to make their parents' sacrifice worth it. I'm sure this feeling of obligation was especially acute for Joan as it appears that her parents never really wanted to be in the U.S. 

The story begins with the death of Joan's father and her whirlwind trip to China for the funeral - she flew there and back in a weekend. She doesn't seem to be upset about it in the way many people would. Some of that probably has to do with how absent he has been in her life. When he lived in the U.S. he worked long hours to provide for the family. Though he is a successful businessman in China, when he travels to the U.S. on business he barely has time for a cup of coffee with her. There's a scene where he comes to the hospital to see her but doesn't want to pay the $18/hour parking fee because he can't stay the whole hour. I'm frugal, but this seems to be a little too much and if he didn't want to pay the fee why didn't he make plans to meet her outside of work? I digress. I do think she is sad about his passing in her own way - her way of grieving is just different.

I think in many ways Joan is like her father - at one point she realizes she has her father's hands. She also doesn't feel the need to spend money. When she returns home from China she exchanges the first-class ticket her brother had bought for coach. Her brother has definitely embraced the be super success obligation. He and his wife are in finance - though his wife now is a stay-at-home mom to their three boys. They have plenty of money and want to flaunt it. They host extravagant parties and Tami only shops are the finest stores. 

Joan probably makes every bit as much money as they do - there's a scene where the director gives her a raise and because she doesn't respond the way he expected he gives her more money - afraid he has offended her. But Fang and Tami do not understand why Joan isn't living the good life. He keeps telling her to move to Greenwich, CT (where they live) and go into private practice so she doesn't have to work so much.

Joan doesn't have any friends. I think she thinks of her co-workers as friends but she doesn't see them outside of the hospital. Then she gets a new neighbor and he is very friendly. It's not just Joan he is friendly with but with the whole building - he very much wants to build a sense of community. And I think he is good for Joan. I hope they can continue their friendship.

This story takes place sometime before the pandemic, but it does come up towards the end. It gives another opportunity to touch on the themes of cultural differences and racism that are an undercurrent
throughout the novel. For readers that don't want to be reading about the pandemic - it is a very short section of the story and it is just about the really early days (i.e. March 2020). When it is mentioned how quickly China was able to get the disease under control another character asks if people would be as compliant as Chinese citizens. We know how "lockdown" went in the U.S. and when I read this announcement from the Chinese government, I wondered how well this would have gone over in the U.S., "unless you wish death upon others, be a good citizen and stay inside."

I felt like this book was "a slice of life" kind of story. It definitely gave me a look into the life of someone that isn't that much like me. And while I don't want to be a workaholic like Joan, I think she is content and doesn't see herself as a workaholic. And perhaps she truly isn't as she doesn't need to work as much as she does - she lives below her means (though we know that an apartment in NYC costs a pretty penny). She implies that she would work for free (though she is sensible enough to know that isn't realistic). 

My review will be published at Girl Who Reads on Jan. 21 -
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A specific character study, Wang's latest explores themes of ethnicity, immigration, family, and self through the truly distinct character of Joan. A 30-something doctor in a New York City ICU, Joan lives and breathes her job; in essence, it IS her identity. After her father dies unexpectedly, she travels to China--over a mere weekend--to attend his funeral. While there she interacts with her mother, who emigrated to the United States to give Joan and her brother Fang a chance at the American Dream. Once those paths were secured, she went right back to China. 

After returning from the funeral, Joan's personality starts to be revealed. Stoic and obtuse in social situations, she has a sparsely furnished apartment, no social life, and would rather work than not. She has trouble understanding her mother and brother, and seems lost about just how to grieve her father. When she's forced to take a 6-week break from work just as the pandemic is exploding in China and beyond, the issues she's been struggling with--her mother, her grief, her sense of self as a Chinese-American--come to the fore and force her to address them.

It's a credit to Wang that the book doesn't take the expected route of Joan completely changing her personality; she opens up in some ways and stays true to her rigidity in others. She's a refreshingly unique, very specific character, whose story is mostly compelling. Some sections do plod along and I did, at times, wonder if Joan could really be such an emotionally connected doctor to her patients (which we don't see on the page, aside from her struggling with an iPad during a Covid call), yet still so bereft of emotion in her family/social life. Yet even these minor quibbles didn't take away from the bits of humor and heart this book offers.

Much thanks to @NetGalley and @RandomHouse for the free copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Joan is Okay is a simply stunning stream of consciousness novel that follows a woman always labelled as “different”, different for navigating the world literally and eschewing emotions–survival mechanisms that eventually stoke an eruption of chaos after the passing of her father that disrupts her well-constructed life as a top ICU doctor.

Weike Wang masterfully touches upon themes of grief, survival, and the ways we are perceived in a simultaneously lyrical yet precise manner; her writing flows so beautifully, with strong ideas and characters that seemingly unfold effortlessly through each act. Joan’s observations about navigating the United States as a Chinese American woman isn’t completely central to the story–instead it is an undercurrent that informs the way she moves through the world. But when migration, sacrifice, and othering are brought to the forefront in Joan’s bursts of thought, the passages are written so thoughtfully and non-indulgently, that the feelings they produced in my gut panged for pages more.
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Joan Is Okay
by: Weike Wang
Random House Publishing Group - Random House, Random House

This is a character-driven novel, giving us deep insight into who Joan is. Wang's writing is rich and profound, as she shares Joan's story as an ICU doctor in New York City and as a Chinese American. She expertly covers serious subjects such as family loyalty and working in medicine during Co-vid. Joan is unlike any character we have ever read about, making this a memorable and notable book of 2022. 
Thank you to Net Galley and Random House Publishing Group - Random House, Random House for the advance reader's copy and opportunity to provide my unbiased review.
#JoanIsOkay #NetGalley
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This is precise, sharp, spare fiction, with a living, breathing circulatory system under the clinical lines of its prose. I absolutely adored this book. Of all the books set in COVID times that I’ve read thus far, this is my favorite by far. I love the author’s beautifully drawn characters, and ultimately felt like I would love to be friends with Joan. 

My one very slight criticism is that it ended too soon and I would really love to have been able to stay on the journey with Joan for longer. The ending was a touch too abrupt, and I felt like our heroine deserved a bit more “sugar” at the end. But that’s a minor problem in an extremely good read. 

Thank you to #NetGalley, #WeikeWang and #RandomHouse for the digital #ARC in exchange for my honest review!
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It may be short but an extremely enjoyable read., The story flows very well. Resonates so well with many people are now struggling with. As a minority I empathized with Joan and so will you. Definitely don't pass up this engrossing book. Happy reading!
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Joan is Okay was a very anticipated 2022 read for me. It comes out on Tuesday (the 18th). This is a character driven literary fiction novel about a quirky doctor. Joan is of Chinese descent and reflects on her life as an immigrant, her parents’ decision to return to China, grief, her professional life, and her relationships.
I found the parts where you can see Covid coming to be quite jarring but it was an interesting perspective.
This is a slow-moving novel but I expect you’ll get attached to Joan.
Thanks to @netgalley and @randomhouse for the eARC.
#currentlyreading #bookstagram #booklover #shelflife #booklife #bibliophile #bookworm #booknerd #bookstagrammer #reading #bookish #read #goodreads #amreading #bookreviews #booksofig #booksofinstagram #readmore #readmorebooks #whatiread #bookrecommendations #joanisokay
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📚Book Review📚 Joan Is Okay by Weike Wang, coming Tuesday. I loved Wang’s debut novel, Chemistry, so I was excited for the opportunity to read an advance copy.  In Joan is Okay, Wang once again uses a unique literary style to draw the reader into the mind and life of this remarkable young woman.  I heartily recommend this book!

“Joan is a thirtysomething ICU doctor at a busy New York City hospital. The daughter of Chinese parents who came to the United States to secure the American dream for their children, Joan is intensely devoted to her work, happily solitary, successful. She does look up sometimes and wonder where her true roots lie: at the hospital, where her white coat makes her feel needed, or with her family, who try to shape her life by their own cultural and social expectations.”

Thank you @randomhouse and @netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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Joan is totally focused on her work an intensive care physician, working shift after shift and living in a sparsely furnished (she uses a folding chair and table to eat).  And then she gets a new neighbor, Mark.  And her father dies.  Know that the ICU is a backdrop for Joan, that there aren't but a few scenes of patients and that she's more entranced with her ECMO than with people. The child of Chinese immigrants who returned to China after dropping her off at Harvard, she's made her own way, as has her brother, who grew rich with a hedge fund.  Her father's death and her mother's return to the US opens something up in her but Mark is equally important. Joan's experience as the child of immigrants - the one who answers the phone among other things- is vivid as is her description of her sister in law. It's clear early on that she's on the spectrum but no one ever says it out loud not even her brother.  COVID emerges near the end but it's not the focus of the novel. I liked this for Joan and for the writing which gave her a clear voice.  I'd like her to be there if I'm in the ICU.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  An excellent read.
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This book spoke to me. A beautiful book. 

I haven;t read the author's previous book, Chemistry but I will be rectifying that very soon.

Joan Is Okay is a book that speaks to you. the tone and the voice of Joan wowed me completely. It's deadpan and yet with so much heart, reason, logic. 

This book deals with belonging, racism, singleness, heartache, immigration, grief with such poignancy that it had me stopping between chapters to absorb and process it all. 

Joan is a Chinese-American doctor living in New York - she loves her work and feels most fulfilled when
she is at the hospital. The novel begins with the death of her father and ends during the pandemic. 

This book is all heart and soul. I loved Joan. She is such a compelling character. I will recommend this book to all.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for sending a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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