“Grace Talusan writes eloquently about the most unsayable things: the deep gravitational pull of family, the complexity of navigating identity as an immigrant, and the ways we move forward even as we carry our traumas with us. Equal parts compassion and confession, The Body Papers is a stunning work by a powerful new writer who—like the best memoirists—transcends the personal to speak on a universal level.”
—Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere
Born in the Philippines, young Grace Talusan moves with her family to a New England suburb in the 1970s. At school, she confronts racism as one of the few kids with a brown face. At home, the confusion is worse: her grandfather’s nightly visits to her room leave her hurt and terrified, and she learns to build a protective wall of silence that maps onto the larger silence practiced by her Catholic Filipino family. Talusan learns as a teenager that her family’s legal status in the country has always hung by a thread—for a time, they were “illegal.” Family, she’s told, must be put first.
The abuse and trauma Talusan suffers as a child affects all her relationships, her mental health, and her relationship with her own body. Later, she learns that her family history is threaded with violence and abuse. And she discovers another devastating family thread: cancer. In her thirties, Talusan must decide whether to undergo preventive surgeries to remove her breasts and ovaries. Despite all this, she finds love, and success as a teacher. On a fellowship, Talusan and her husband return to the Philippines, where she revisits her family’s ancestral home and tries to reclaim a lost piece of herself.
Not every family legacy is destructive. From her parents, Talusan has learned to tell stories in order to continue. The generosity of spirit and literary acuity of this debut memoir are a testament to her determination and resilience. In excavating such abuse and trauma, and supplementing her story with government documents, medical records, and family photos, Talusan gives voice to unspeakable experience, and shines a light of hope into the darkness.
Grace Talusan was born in the Philippines and raised in New England. A graduate of Tufts University and the MFA Program in Writing at UC Irvine, she is the recipient of a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship to the Philippines and an Artist Fellowship Award from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Talusan teaches the Essay Incubator at GrubStreet and at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts. She is the Fannie Hurst Writer-in-Residence at Brandeis University for 2019–2021. The Body Papers, winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, is her first book.
On one side, there is Grace: prize-winning author Diana Abu-Jaber’s tough, independent sugar-fiend of a German grandmother, wielding a suitcase full of holiday cookies. On the other, Bud: a flamboyant, spice-obsessed Arab father, full of passionate argument. The two could not agree on anything: not about food, work, or especially about what Diana should do with her life. Grace warned her away from children. Bud wanted her married above all—even if he had to provide the ring. Caught between cultures and lavished with contradictory “advice” from both sides of her family, Diana spent years learning how to ignore others’ well-intentioned prescriptions.
Hilarious, gorgeously written, poignant, and wise, Life Without a Recipe is Diana’s celebration of journeying without a map, of learning to ignore the script and improvise, of escaping family and making family on one’s own terms. As Diana discovers, however, building confidence in one’s own path sometimes takes a mistaken marriage or two—or in her case, three: to a longhaired boy-poet, to a dashing deconstructionist literary scholar, and finally to her steadfast, outdoors-loving Scott. It also takes a good deal of angst (was it possible to have a serious writing career and be a mother?) and, even when she knew what she wanted (the craziest thing, in one’s late forties: a baby!), the nerve to pursue it.
Finally, fearlessly independent like the Grace she’s named after, Diana and Scott’s daughter Gracie will heal all the old battles with Bud and, like her writer-mom, learn to cook up a life without a recipe.
By the time she was eleven years old, Eunsun's father and grandparents had died of starvation, and Eunsun was in danger of the same. Finally, her mother decided to escape North Korea with Eunsun and her sister, not knowing that they were embarking on a journey that would take them nine long years to complete. Before finally reaching South Korea and freedom, Eunsun and her family would live homeless, fall into the hands of Chinese human traffickers, survive a North Korean labor camp, and cross the deserts of Mongolia on foot.
Now, Eunsun is sharing her remarkable story to give voice to the tens of millions of North Koreans still suffering in silence. Told with grace and courage, her memoir is a riveting exposé of North Korea's totalitarian regime and, ultimately, a testament to the strength and resilience of the human spirit.
In the Hmong tradition, the song poet recounts the story of his people, their history and tragedies, joys and losses; extemporizing or drawing on folk tales, he keeps the past alive, invokes the spirits and the homeland, and records courtships, births, weddings, and wishes.
Following her award-winning book The Latehomecomer, Kao Kalia Yang now retells the life of her father Bee Yang, the song poet, a Hmong refugee in Minnesota, driven from the mountains of Laos by American's Secret War. Bee lost his father as a young boy and keenly felt his orphanhood. He would wander from one neighbor to the next, collecting the things they said to each other, whispering the words to himself at night until, one day, a song was born. Bee sings the life of his people through the war-torn jungle and a Thai refugee camp. But the songs fall away in the cold, bitter world of a Minneapolis housing project and on the factory floor until, with the death of Bee's mother, the songs leave him for good. But before they do, Bee, with his poetry, has polished a life of poverty for his children, burnished their grim reality so that they might shine.
Written with the exquisite beauty for which Kao Kalia Yang is renowned, The Song Poet is a love story -- of a daughter for her father, a father for his children, a people for their land, their traditions, and all that they have lost.
The stunning true story of an untouchable family who become teachers, and one, a poet and revolutionary
Like one in six people in India, Sujatha Gidla was born an untouchable. While most untouchables are illiterate, her family was educated by Canadian missionaries in the 1930s, making it possible for Gidla to attend elite schools and move to America at the age of twenty-six. It was only then that she saw how extraordinary—and yet how typical—her family history truly was. Her mother, Manjula, and uncles Satyam and Carey were born in the last days of British colonial rule. They grew up in a world marked by poverty and injustice, but also full of possibility. In the slums where they lived, everyone had a political side, and rallies, agitations, and arrests were commonplace. The Independence movement promised freedom. Yet for untouchables and other poor and working people, little changed. Satyam, the eldest, switched allegiance to the Communist Party. Gidla recounts his incredible transformation from student and labor organizer to famous poet and founder of a left-wing guerrilla movement. And Gidla charts her mother’s battles with caste and women’s oppression. Page by page, Gidla takes us into a complicated, close-knit family as they desperately strive for a decent life and a more just society.
A moving portrait of love, hardship, and struggle, Ants Among Elephants is also that rare thing: a personal history of modern India told from the bottom up.