Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief
A Kirkus Best Book of October 2021
From poet Victoria Chang, a collection of literary letters and mementos on the art of remembering across generations.
For Victoria Chang, memory "isn't something that blooms, but something that bleeds internally." It is willed, summoned, and dragged to the surface. The remembrances in this collection of letters are founded in the fragments of stories her mother shared reluctantly, and the silences of her father, who first would not and then could not share more. They are whittled and sculpted from an archive of family relics: a marriage license, a letter, a visa petition, a photograph. And, just as often, they are built on the questions that can no longer be answered.
Dear Memory is not a transcription but a process of simultaneously shaping and being shaped, knowing that when a writer dips their pen into history, what emerges is poetry. In carefully crafted collages and missives on trauma, loss, and Americanness, Victoria Chang grasps on to a sense of self that grief threatens to dissipate.
In letters to family, past teachers, and fellow poets, as the imagination, Dear Memory offers a model for what it looks like to find ourselves in our histories.
Other Honors for Dear Memory:
An Electric Literature Favorite Nonfiction Book of 2021
A TIME Magazine Most Anticipated Book of Fall 2021
A Los Angeles Times Most Anticipated Book of Fall 2021
A Literary Hub Most Anticipated Book of 2021An NPR Most Anticipated Book of October 2021
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About the Author
Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry
Longlisted for the 2020 National Book Award in Poetry "Chang's new collection explores her father's illness and her mother's death, treating mortality as a constantly shifting enigma. A serene acceptance of grief emerges from these poems."--New York Times, "100 Notable Books of 2020" "Chang's sharp crystallizations of the pain and disorientation of death, and the way it reverberates through life, bring us to the raw heart of grief without the overblown language of classical elegy. These are poems that reproduce the logic and feeling of loss--a gift for anyone who has struggled to find words to express grief."--NPR "In [OBIT], mortality is not a before and after state, but rather a constantly shifting enigma."--New York Times Book Review "Exceptional . . . Chang's poems expand and contract to create surprising geometries of language, vividly capturing the grief they explore."--Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Chang has created a unique poetic construct. . . . The feeling of hope is a theme throughout this solid collection, in variations Chang evokes with grace: 'Hope / is the wildest bird, the one that flies / so fast it will either disappear or burst / into flames.' Chang's poetry fine tunes that conflagration with acuity."--Booklist "[OBIT] marshals all the resources of poetry against the relentless emotional cascade that's associated with death--and, very much to its credit, and as a testament to its success, the book has arrived at a kind of momentary stalemate against that cascade."--Rick Barot "A long elegy for the poet's mother, OBIT is the kind of poetry collection that creates a new genre. A reinvention of form? A symphony? A manifesto? All of the above and then some. It is heartbreaking and enthralling. It sings and instructs. It is a world all its own; one that changes ours."--Ilya Kaminsky "Here we have unmitigated heartbreak--but heartbreak mercifully free of the usual 'death etiquette' platitudes of 'after-lives' or 'better offs.' Thus, Chang has created something powerful and unconventional. These poems are zinger curveballs, and often come from the graveyard's left field."--Los Angeles Review of Books "These obits are fearless. They are also specific and intimate. . . . The emotional power of Chang's OBIT comes from the grace and honesty with which she turns this familiar form inside out to show us the private side of family, the knotting together of generations, the bewilderment of grief."--Ploughshares Praise for Barbie Chang "But [Chang's readers] won't be the only ones [who like Chang's new work]--and not even they will expect Chang's grander scope, her greater nuance, and her more generous attention to its characters' adult lives. . . . Chang's punctuation-free lines, like WS Merwin's, invite overlapping readings and multiple syntax. Her pathos slows down for jokes, apercus, and hyper-contemporary puns. . . . Such invitations are hard to resist, and they ring."--Stephanie Burt, Academy of American Poets "Chang entrances with wordplay, but the dance never feels hollow: this is performance with poetic soul. . . . Don't miss the exquisitely crafted litany of linked poems in the middle of the book, evidence how quickly and precisely Chang can turn from comic to comforting to transcendent."--The Millions "Chang is emerging as an exciting voice in contemporary poetry, and [Barbie Chang] is undoubtedly her most accomplished volume to date."--Publishers Weekly