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.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t spend time Googling these people, or that I wasn’t fascinated by the whole notion of what constitutes beauty – and the way in which it’s judged. Kofman doesn’t pretend to have an answer—Imperfect is not a didactic book, and nor does it present a thesis that beauty is more than ‘skin deep’ and that judgement in any form is bad–we cannot help gazing at the beautiful or indeed the shocking. What the book does show however, is that these are complex and important questions to raise and that familiarity and reflectiveness are a means to better understanding who we are.
Davis expertly controls the narrative threads of their day-to-day reality while explaining what inspires her to write. Further into the book, these intimate details open up into a wider scope of the connection between life and art. She accomplishes this without appropriating the grief of the families with murdered children, instead Nail in the Tree tells how Davis’ life became what it is.
Redhouse is an exceptional science writer, and her research is extensive, making connections, incorporating anecdotes both personal and as part of her research, so that the overall effect is engaging, open-minded, informative and powerful. The hybrid effect allows for multiple perspectives that remain open-ended rather than didactic.
Nina Wingard Freese was a retired special education teacher of autistic students who died as a result of ALS – Lou Gehrig’s disease. Contemplative and enhanced with photographs, the book presents Nina as a little girl and again several more times as she is growing up and as a young mother and then as a handsome, mature woman.