The Grave on the Wall

Product Details
$17.95  $16.69
City Lights Books
Publish Date
4.9 X 7.9 X 0.7 inches | 0.55 pounds

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About the Author

Brandon Shimoda is the author of six books of poetry, most recently The Desert (Song Cave, 2018) and Evening Oracle (Letter Machine Editions, 2016), which received the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. His memoir and book of mourning, The Grave on the Wall (City Lights, 2019) received the 2020 PEN Open Book Award. His writings on Japanese-American incarceration have appeared in/on The Asian American Literary Review, Densho, Hyperallergic, The Margins, and The New Inquiry, and he has given talks on the subject at the University of Arizona, Columbia University, Fairhaven College, and the International Center of Photography. He is also the co-editor, with Thom Donovan, of To look at the sea is to become what one is: An Etel Adnan Reader (Nightboat Books, 2014). Born in the San Fernando Valley, California, he lives, for now, in Tucson, AZ.


Winner of the 2020 PEN Open Book Award

Best of 2019: Nonfiction - Entropy Magazine

"Brandon Shimoda's The Grave on the Wall is a wondrous feat of memory work, reportage, and writing. In a series of pilgrimages to landscapes on both sides of the Pacific Ocean--deserts, graveyards, deserted villages--Shimoda reconstructs the many journeys of his Japanese-American family. He begins with a search for his grandfather's roots, and unfolds an intimate story of longing and reinvention. Gradually, a picture emerges of the tenacity and pain endured by a people scattered around the globe by chance, by need, and by their own hopes and ambitions. Written with a poet's ear for lyricism, The Grave on the Wall is a meditation of the act of remembering, containing within its pages the plots of many novels and the haunting imagery of dreams. Brandon Shimoda has penned a beautiful and powerful work of nonfiction, while remaining unafraid to confront the injustice and state-supported acts of violence at the center of his tale."--Judges' citation, PEN Open Book Award

"Shimoda brings his poetic lyricism to this moving and elegant memoir, the structure of which reflects the fragmentation of memories. [Shimoda] looks for his grandfather's [Midori's] origin story in Nakanose, a town near Hiroshima that may no longer be whole; pieces together the ugly history of the U.S. internment camps, and wrestles with the remove at which he views his grandfather toward the sunset of his life. It is at once wistful and devastating to see Midori's life come full circle ... In between is a life with tragedy, love, and the horrors unleashed by the atomic bomb."--Booklist, starred review

"[I]lluminates the tensions that exploded with World War II and the aftershocks within his family. ... Shimoda wades through memories and dreams; lives and graves that have no names documented; unspeakable horrors committed by the country where his grandfather lived on the people of his native country; and the attempts to memorialize what is too graphically terrible to remember. By the end, writes the author, 'I was just learning how to see.' A memoir of sorts that blurs the boundary between the personal and the universal."--Kirkus Reviews

"Intergenerational knowledge must be actively sought, researched and retrieved--it's not a given. But while attentive to the work of remembering, Shimoda also writes through the slipperier terrain of experiencing one's ancestry in the present, never fully manifest but felt and lived."--Frieze

"In this memoir, Shimoda, an American poet of Japanese descent, tells the story of his family, starting with his grandfather, who was transformed into an 'enemy alien' by World War II; and in doing so, tells a universal story of the horrors of war both physical and emotional, and the tensions that linger among people long after the wars are over."--Literary Hub

"Shimoda outlines the mysteries behind the unspeakable violence that occurred, revealing its horrors through his grandfather's FBI files, photographs and fragmented memories."--Colorlines

"Relying on his skills as a poet, Shimoda enhances the elusive details of [his grandfather's] life with his own journeys of discovery, creating an impressive prose debut. The compelling result is a meditative memoir-of-sorts about his grandfather, his extended family, his ancestral heritage, and ultimately himself as a 21st-century Japanese American. ... Through his expansive pursuit, Shimoda alchemizes his family's recollections and confessions, his country's trespasses, his legacy of loss, into elegant, haunting testimony."--Shelf Awareness, starred review

"Shimoda travels to places from Midori's life to tell not just the story of his grandfather, but al