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.
It is always both true and fictive, and like dreams, pieced together from a grab-bag of images and turned into stories that reflect the themes being explored. The Age of Fibs picks up on this uncertainty beautifully and works with it, allowing for openness, complexity, and fragmentation, while still keeping the coherency of the story intact.
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.
Both Oceane and Cécile are beautifully articulate, carefully unpicking their own wounds to find something universal in their experience. In breaking their silence, Oceane and Cécile create an allyship between mother and daughter that reverberates beyond their changing relationship to one another, themselves, their histories, and the world they live in.
Ly Tran’s House of Sticks beautifully captures what it means to be an immigrant in America: the struggle to adapt to your new world’s norms, the desperate desire to succeed there, and the love and heartache that your old life still haunts you with. The juxtaposition of holding onto her old identity while embracing her American one with her belief that escaping everything that is connected to Vietnam is the only way to succeed in the U.S. draws the reader in with the perpetual tension in her mind and heart, which Tran eventually evolves into the understanding that “[her father] was trying to save [their] lives” rather than ruin them.