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.
Compelled by a strong identification with Major’s experience of marriage and motherhood and a familiarity with the power structures that discriminated against her – remembering the marginalisation I’d faced as a single woman raising a child on my own – I came to the gradual understanding that my interaction with her work was almost wholly personal. My instinctive response to The Asparagus Wars, Major’s powerful recounts of gendered inequality, made it undesirable that I interact with the book in any other way.
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.