THE WINGED SEED by Li-Young Lee

THE WINGED SEED

A Remembrance

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Part remembrance, part waking dream, this is a haunting exploration of memory, identity, love, and exile. This memoir focuses on poet Lee's (The City in Which I Love You, not reviewed) recollections of his father, a scholar who had been Mao's personal physician but fled China in the 1950s for Jakarta, Indonesia. There he became a political prisoner for two years. Yet even when Lee's father is absent from the story, it is no less about him. Lee describes himself and his brothers and sister waiting, waiting for their father to get out, or for their mother to return from trying to visit him. The family eventually escapes Indonesia, going from Hong Kong to Java to the US, where the father becomes a Presbyterian minister in a small Pennsylvania town. There he is subdued before his white congregation, who call him ``our heathen minister,'' but he turns wild, fiery, evangelical at an annual retreat with other Chinese preachers. Much of the book is about being an outsider, as Lee has been always a foreigner to the languages and cultures around him. Often his memories come out of sleeplessness, and this torment is beautifully rendered, as are his meditations on his wife's sleeping body and the distance between them when he is awake remembering and she is asleep. Lee's first work of prose reads like a poem, crafted with the poet's attention to the sound of language and to metaphor. Often Lee's allegories lead him into eerie riddles: ``If at this point there approaches out of the East a man with a stone tangled in his hair, and he asks you what you did with your father's blind eye, that agate, unblinking, what will you say?'' Lingering, feverish remembrances of a father and of exile. This should lead many to read Lee's poetry, and to eagerly await further memoirs from this lyric artist.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-671-70708-6
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1994




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