Charis welcomes Victoria Chang in conversation with Anjali Enjeti for a discussion of Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief, a collection of literary letters and mementos on the art of remembering across generations.
For poet 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 missives on trauma and loss, on being American and Chinese, Victoria Chang shows how grief can ignite a longing to know yourself. 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.
Victoria Chang is the author of Dear Memory. Her poetry books include OBIT, Barbie Chang, The Boss, Salvinia Molesta, and Circle. OBIT received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and the PEN Voeckler Award; it was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Prize and the Griffin Poetry Prize and was long-listed for the National Book Award. She is also the author of a children’s picture book, Is Mommy?, illustrated by Marla Frazee and named a New York Times Notable Book, and a middle-grade novel, Love, Love. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Sustainable Arts Foundation Fellowship, the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award, a Pushcart Prize, a Lannan Residency Fellowship, and a Katherine Min MacDowell Colony Fellowship. She lives in Los Angeles and is the program chair of Antioch University’s low-residency MFA program.
Anjali Enjeti is a former attorney, journalist, teacher, and organizer based near Atlanta. Her books Southbound: Essays on Identity, Inheritance, and Social Change, and the novel, The Parted Earth were published earlier this year. Her other writing has appeared in The Oxford American, Harper’s Bazaar, USA Today, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Washington Post, and elsewhere. She teaches creative writing in the MFA program at Reinhardt University.
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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.
The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2020Time Magazine's 100 Must-Read Books of 2020 NPR's Best Books of 2020 National Book Award in Poetry, Longlist Frank Sanchez Book Award
With astringent understatement and wry economy, with nuance and intelligence and an enviable command of syntax and poetic line, Victoria Chang dissects the venerable practices of cultural piety and self-regard. She is a master of the thumbnail narrative. She can wield a dark eroticism. She is determined to tackle subject matter that is not readily subdued to the proportions of lyric.
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Fans of Inside Out and Back Again will love this novel-in-verse about a Chinese-American girl who contends with school bullies, worries about her sister's mysterious illness, and finds strength at the local tennis court.