A language constitutes a world; that idea is significant in Rho’s memoir. She goes into a Korean shop for lunch with her daughter, and a woman working there encourages her to speak Korean, as does a woman, a minister’s wife, with whom Rho talks on the phone about lessons in Korean for her daughter and son. Growing up, she didn’t speak Korean with her parents.
For Alvin Eng, a Chinese American punk rocker who is now an educator and a playwright, this has meant ‘a spiritual state of homelessness,” moving between the Foo J. Chin Chinese Hand Laundry and an American frame of reference. This reflective and personal narrative is his first memoir, and a change from his dramatic writing.
Bastian Fox Phelan’s memoir How to Be Between leans right into these societal norms, exposing them for the controlling mechanisms that they are, designed to make use feel chronically inadequate so we’re easier to sell to or control. These norms force an unnatural binary between male and female, attractive and unattractive, straight and queer. How to Be Between rejects these binaries and instead offers up the possibility of living a life without such constraints.
As a thirty-nine year old woman who is navigating fertility clinics and the adoption process, I inhaled this book, which is about a woman, Klein, trying to have a baby. In my online yoga class, we are asked to stretch up to the point where it hurts. This is how far Klein takes her writing: to the point it hurts, presumably for her and definitely for the reader.
Angle of Flickering Light tells an honest story. It’s the story of a life in progress, marked at its beginning by a series of small, devastating acts—a parent who should protect and cherish instead abuses.
The book is a series of personal essays and collages bound in an exquisite coffee-table book; it bursts with colour and nuance yet simplicity and dedication to the characters and stories that lie within. Interwoven with touchingly personal stories of childhood and young adulthood and philosophies on life, it is a challenge to put The Pink Book down.
Listen Mama is less a traditional memoir and more a compilation of the author’s journal entries, many of which were written at the tender but precocious age of 14. These entries stretch over more than 19 years, covering in real time the heartaches, health problems, and general misfortunes that were thrown at this unfortunate person. What Williams brings to the memoir is a clarity that could cut through bone and a sober reconciliation with the past that can only come with age and knowing.
Between the images, the recollections, the references, the correspondences and the longing, a new kind of story emerges – one that allows the the gaps in the narrative to remain unknown. Aitken doesn’t find the “key to a past the will grant…a thousand and one narratives” (“Stolen Valour”). Instead he finds questions that become Koans, a pathway to a greater truth.
While this memoir chronicles what the author refers to as her “brokenness” as a result of what she endured, it really is a story of healing. Writing this book was a very big part of that process for Ouellette. “Maybe healing, when it happens, is the result of a quantum entanglement, the swirling of a thousand winds. Maybe it comes when you give your daughter your own heart like another stuffed toy she will drag with her everywhere…”
From the day of early childhood to the teenage years, Clarke consistently takes moments of her life, interrogates them, and gives them a certain form of literary justice. I wouldn’t say a poetic justice, because Clarke isn’t trying to write poetically. She is giving a record of what it means to be born as a foreigner in your own country, and the existential challenges which come throughout.