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Publication Date: April 28, 2020

What We Carry

A Memoir

By Maya Shanbhag Lang

Profoundly moving”—Will Schwalbe, author of The End of Your Life Book Club

“A gorgeous memoir about mothers, daughters, and the tenacity of the love that grows between what is said and what is left unspoken.”—Mira Jacob, author of Good Talk

In caring for her aging mother and her own young daughter, writer Maya Shanbhag Lang—“a new voice of the highest caliber” (Rebecca Makkai)—confronts the legacy of family myths and how the stories shared between parents and children reverberate through generations: a deeply moving memoir about immigrants and their native-born children, the complicated love between mothers and daughters, and the discovery of strength.


How much can you judge another woman’s choices? What if that woman is your mother?

Maya Shanbhag Lang grew up idolizing her brilliant mother, an accomplished physician who immigrated to the United States from India and completed her residency, all while raising her children and keeping a traditional Indian home. She had always been a source of support—until Maya became a mother herself. Then, the parent who had once been so capable and attentive turned unavailable and distant. Struggling to understand this abrupt change while raising her own young child, Maya searches for answers and soon learns that her mother is living with Alzheimer’s

When Maya steps in to care for her, she comes to realize that despite their closeness, she never really knew her mother. Were her cherished stories—about life in India, about what it means to be an immigrant, about motherhood itself—even true? Affecting, raw, and poetic, What We Carry is the story of a daughter and her mother, of lies and truths, of receiving and giving care—and how we cannot grow up until we fully understand the people who raised us.

Advance praise for What We Carry

“A dazzling, courageous memoir about the weight we carry as women, daughters, and mothers—and what happens when we let go. Lang takes us deep into the heart of her relationship with her mother, a brilliant psychiatrist and Indian immigrant with long-buried secrets. After a health crisis brings mother and daughter under the same roof for the first time since childhood, Lang grapples with new information about the parent she’d idolized, and realizes it's time to tell the story of her own life. What We Carry is a love letter to everyone who has swum through turbulent water before reaching the shores of selfhood.”—Chloe Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Immortalists

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