Not Here To Be Liked is a debut novel by graphic designer and writer Michelle Quach. The novel follows Eliza Quan, who, like Quach, is Chinese-Vietnamese-American. Eliza believes that she is a shoo-in for the role of editor-in-chief for her school newspaper until she loses the vote to an inexperienced baseball player, Len DiMartile. Frustrated and upset, Eliza unintentionally starts a feminist movement in her school after someone posts her ‘manifesto’ onto the newspaper’s website. However, when Eliza starts to fall for Len, her enemy and the ‘symbol of the patriarchy’, her feminist movement gets called into question.
What makes the novel shine the most is the way in which Quach explores feminism through an intersectional lens. Using the guise of a light-hearted rom-com, Quach ruminates on the history of feminism and the erasure of POC voices by white feminists. Eliza is not only fighting against sexism but racism too. Additionally, Quach’s portrayal of feminism feels deeply realistic. Eliza and her peers have qualms about the school’s feminist movement as they struggle to define what feminism means. In this sense, Quach captures how feminism is not clear cut but rather a messy process of learning. Moreover, although Eliza comes off as cold and unlikeable at the beginning of the novel, her imperfections further prove Quach’s point: society has been programmed to dislike overly ambitious girls.
Furthermore, the dynamics of Eliza’s family add depth to the novel as Quach explores how, as a second-generation immigrant, Eliza has a very different understanding of feminism from her mother. Eliza’s mother, for example, believes a woman should be taken care of by her husband, whilst Eliza believes a woman should be self-made. In addition, Quach uses Eliza’s family to touch upon other topics too, such as the model minority myth and the Asian-American experience. Eliza’s father, for example, struggles to find a job with his limited English and work experience. In this sense, the novel is extremely eye-opening.
Overall, Not Here To Be Liked is an unmissable debut that provides a realistic portrayal of intersectional feminism and the Asian-American experience.
Not Here To Be Liked will be available to purchase from 16 September.