An ambitious and engaging work of creative nonfiction.



A writer assembles a debut memoir out of unsent letters, poems, and other drafts made and saved.

For over a decade, Chan struggled to write a memoir telling her peculiarly American story: how she spent most of her first years in Guangzhou, China, with her grandparents; how she returned to New York, where she was born, to live with her mother after the latter married a dentist; how her childhood in a tony Long Island town was marred by loneliness and emotional isolation. “I started writing emails to exes and notes that never left the app on my iPhone,” she recalls in her introduction. “It was then that I realized that my life couldn’t be captured with just one story or created with only a laptop.” She presents these fragments—sometimes prose, sometimes poems—as they are, offering a fractured yet comprehensive view of her mother, her dead birth father, her ex-lovers, her friends, and finally herself. What emerges is a portrait of a girl caught between countries, cultures, and possible futures, searching for a sensible narrative of her past and present. The section “DEAR MOM” includes a short prose piece called “Clue,” which begins: “I went through your drawers when you weren’t around.” A piece in “DEAR FATHER” includes a description of finding the death certificate of the man she never knew: “It stated your cause of death: gunshot wound to the chest.” Her parents’ trauma informs and mingles with her own, and the piecemeal nature of the manuscript reflects the trickle of facts she uncovers by investigating the truth of her origins. Chan’s poetry is plainspoken with simple rhyme schemes that are often a bit awkward, as here where she writes to her first high school lover: “I thought being with you / Could make you feel a bit lighter / But you’d come to find / Another star shines brighter.” Stronger are the prose sections, which benefit both from their brevity and the powerful direct address to their subjects. The author’s personal story is compelling, and her bold choice of presentation smartly captures the meagerness of the answers life offers and the challenge of getting them down on paper before they dissolve.

An ambitious and engaging work of creative nonfiction.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-5255-3515-4

Page Count: 123

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2019

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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