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Dear Diaspora (University of Nebraska Press)
Dear Diaspora is an unapologetic reckoning with history, memory, and grief. Parting the weeds on a small American town, this collection sheds light on the intersections of girlhood and diaspora. The poems introduce us to Suzi: ripping her leg hairs out with duct tape, praying for ecstasy during Sunday mass, dreaming up a language for buried familial trauma and discovering that such a language may not exist. Through a collage of lyric, documentary, and epistolary poems, we follow Suzi as she untangles intergenerational grief and her father’s disappearance while climbing trees to stare at the color green and wishing that she wore Lucy Liu’s freckles.
Winner of the Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry, Dear Diaspora scrutinizes our turning away from the trauma of our past and our complicity in its erasure. Suzi, caught between enjoying a rundown American adolescence and living with the inheritances of war, attempts to unravel her own inherited grief as she explores the multiplicities of identity and selfhood against the backdrop of the Vietnamese diaspora. In its deliberate interweaving of voices, Dear Diaspora explores Suzi’s journey while bringing to light other incarnations of the refugee experience.
Praise for Dear Diaspora:
“Dear Diaspora is a capacious and wholly felt account of a speaker’s contending with place and memory. Susan Nguyen’s gorgeous book maps out the longing of a particular Vietnamese immigrant experience—in its main character, the adolescent Suzi—and also captures, through its documentary research, a collection of voices of Vietnam War refugees in the aftermath. Against a backdrop of love and desire is the search to knit together a place of belonging and origin, rooted both in the sensual world and in the realm of the imagination. Dear Diaspora is a heartbreaking and breathtaking debut.”—Cathy Linh Che, author of Split
“Susan Nguyen, in Dear Diaspora, asks: ‘At the center of your calamity, what grows?’ Nguyen’s gorgeously rendered poems answer that question with language and imagination. There’s devastation in this book—an absent father figure, displacement of the speaker, a fragmented Vietnamese diaspora, but out of this devastation emerges beauty. The speaker in this book collects broken things such as cicada wings that become whole in her rich internal world. Nguyen’s talent is palpable from the first line, and what a gift this book is. In her poem ‘Grief as a Question,’ Nguyen writes: ‘no one told me grief could be so ordinary.’ But out of grief and woundedness emerges a voice that is anything but ordinary.”—Victoria Chang, author of Obit
“‘Last night I had the American dream,’ Nguyen writes, puncturing the dream bubble in which ‘America’ exists as the only and inevitable state of success and belonging. In this collection, diaspora, specifically Vietnamese diaspora, is verdant and lush—suffused with green light, mustard greens, grass and trees—blooming through the drought of American love for Nguyen’s speakers. The poems in Dear Diaspora offer us a lexicon we’ve needed to imagine how we might arrive at and receive one another better in land and language, in memory and touch.”—Natalie Diaz, author of Postcolonial Love Poem
Susan Nguyen received her MFA in poetry from Arizona State University. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Diagram, and other publications.
Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence and Grief (Milkweed Editions)
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.
Praise for Dear Memory:
"Victoria Chang's Dear Memory is a tender exploration of grief, an excavation into stories untold, memories unshared, the treasures that await our discoveries if we trace through the lives that held ours. It is a vulnerable and evocative experience of what it means to miss, to yearn, to return to the pieces of our most beloved. b>-Kao Kalia Yang
After the impressive formal innovations of her 2020 books, OBIT, which won multiple national awards, Chang continues to find new ways to plumb her experiences on the page . . . Depending on what one brings to this book, each reader may find their own moment of goosebumps or tears . . . This book is moving in a way that transcends story and message; it captures a purse sense of another person's heart. -- Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
Victoria Chang’s poetry books include OBIT, Barbie Chang, The Boss, Salvinia Molesta, and Circle. OBIT was named a NYT Notable Book and a TIME best book of the year. It received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the PEN Voelcker Award, and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, as well as was long-listed for a National Book Award, named a finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her children’s picture book, Is Mommy?, was illustrated by Marla Frazee and published by Beach Lane Books/S&S. It was named a New York Times Notable Book. Her middle grade novel, Love, Love was published by Sterling Publishing. 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’s Low-Residency MFA Program.