[10/12/2021] How Not to Be Afraid of Everything by Jane Wong
Alice James Books, paperback
Publication Date: October 12, 2021
Publisher Marketing: 2019 Alice James Books Award Editor’s Choice
Explores the vulnerable ways we articulate and reckon with fear: fear of intergenerational trauma and the silent, hidden histories of families. What does it mean to grow up in a take-out restaurant, surrounded by food, just a generation after the Great Leap Forward famine in 1958-62? Full of elegy and resilient joy, these poems speak across generations of survival.
“Jane Wong makes a family's immigrant legacy visceral in piercing, deft language that can't be dodged or forgotten once read. Formally diverse and inventive, taut lines serve us images and insights that aren't easily digested about the brutal blessings that come with split inheritances from the homeland and ‘the frontier.’ These hardy poems faithfully recount and recover no matter how taxing this may be. What a searing paean to the living and the ghosts that both haunt and make anything possible! The title? Wong knows. She knows.” —Kamilah Moon
“Jane Wong is a poet who hears the past breathing inside the present, inside the body, every shivering-alive sense. This immensely moving book is a lyrical reckoning with the colossal losses of modern Chinese history; these poems simultaneously inhabit contemporary immigrant life in the U.S. with uncompromising compassion. Instead of a linear document, Wong embraces collage, lacunae, and a kaleidoscopic questioning of what refuses both forgetting and easy remembering—what pulses beneath the amnesiac surface with shimmering fierceness.” —Chen Chen