An Electric Literature Favorite Nonfiction Book of 2021
A TIME Magazine Most Anticipated Book of Fall 2021
A Los Angeles Times Most Anticipated Book of Fall 2021
A Literary Hub Most Anticipated Book of 2021
A Kirkus Best Book of October 2021
An NPR Most Anticipated Book of October 2021
From poet Victoria Chang, a collection of literary letters and mementos on the art of remembering across generations.
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.
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Praise and Prizes
“Chang’s work is excavation, a digging through the muck of society for an existential clarity, a cultural clarity and a general clarity of self.”
“[Dear Memory is] an open-ended inquiry not of a bounded life but of an ongoing present, full of longing and imperfection . . . Chang has followed language to the edge of what she knows; the question her book asks is whether language can go further still . . . Her own project is not to erase those incisions—or even, as a child might hope, to heal them—but to retrace and redescribe them. If there are wounds in the past, she seeks to live with them as scars.”
“Both a chronicling of [Chang’s] family’s history and a powerful, stirring rumination on ancestry, inherited trauma and home.”
“Groundbreaking . . . Chang's lyrical experiment memorably evokes an individual family's time capsule and an artist's timeless yearning to shape carbon dust into incandescent gem.”
“[Dear Memory is] a collage of fragments constituting a moving portrait of the poet herself.”
“A moving consideration of ancestry and loss . . . [Chang’s] prose is sharp and strong—memory is ‘the exit wound of joy,’ she writes—and her creativity shines in her incorporation of the collage-like visual elements, which add depth. Fans of Chang’s poetry will be delighted.”
“Chang has assembled a collection of letters to family, past teachers, and fellow poets, as well as family memorabilia, creating not just a moving family history but a rumination on the creative and self-shaping act of remembering.”
“Ever inventive, ever searching, Chang bends genres to approach an unmanageable emotion.”
“Dear Memory rings with lyrical prose . . . Chang delivers a collage in which the pieces, though only fragments of a narrative, ultimately deliver a gorgeous approximation of a ‘whole’ ancestral history.”
“In Dear Memory, a sentient epistolary book, Chang avoids flowery and dramatic language to unspool an enchanting anthem. If the pandemic had a theme, it would be that time is slippery, that our memories serve as life jackets in an uncertain world, and that our letters to others are really letters to our lonely, broken selves. Here, Chang unspools family archives to tell a deeply provocative tale in an era when we are all relying on our memories now more than ever.”
“These letters to the past that are paving stones to the future is the verdant ground that Victoria Chang explores in these, dare I say, memorable essays.”
“After the impressive formal innovations of her 2020 book, 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 pure sense of another person's heart.”
“Though Chang’s memoir is written in letters, attaching itself to a plot with only the most delicate threads, what emerges is a picture of a woman searching for a way to use words and tangible forms to observe and reshape the world . . . Dear Memory is sparse but powerful. With each image, each refrain, Chang claims — and forms — her identity on the page.”
“Victoria Chang's Dear Memory is a tender exploration of grief, an excavation into stories untold, memories unshared, the treasures that await our discovery if we trace 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.”
“In Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief, Victoria Chang writes letters to her late parents and mentors, daughters and friends, knitting matrices of intimacy that utterly captivate me in their vulnerable honesty. Her searching speculations act as surrogates for the silences that pock her family history. Her melancholia vibrates beautifully off the page, alongside adjacent racialized affects of envy and shame, resulting in wisdom that seems both freshly discovered and fathoms deep. Ultimately, these letters seem written to me and to you.”
“Victoria Chang's Dear Memory grapples with the nature of memory and how one bears the personal traumas of those that came before . . . Imaginatively creating a conversation between past and present, Chang fills in gaps and asks what it means to truly know oneself through one's own history.”
“Chang is consistently a poet who resurrects mediums, her work living within surprising spaces and forms, and both exposing and surpassing the possibilities for those structures. . . . Chang has the rare poetic talent to follow the edges of dark comedy to find sentiment rather than irony.”
“Dear Memory is the work of a gifted poet, a wordsmith who is conscious that absent a chance to be an eyewitness to the past, we are left to spin our own webs of emotional significance and nostalgia.”
“Chang’s star is rising, and lucky for us, she writes with compassion, grace, and a true ethical sensibility.”
“Many poets display a single strength. Some write beautiful nature poems, others write well about relationships, still others have a gift for addressing issues like politics or economics. Chang can do it all.”
“Those who were fans of Chang’s previous book, Obit, will find some similar (yet still refreshing) innovations of style and feeling in Dear Memory. In this genre-bending and deeply personal work, Chang manipulates the loose form of letter-writing to build an archive of emotion out of an archive of familial history. This collection takes seriously the literary value of non-traditional literary elements such as collage-making, snippets of memorabilia, drawings in journals, and bureaucratic debris. This work emphasizes that alongside her masterful and vulnerable writing, these are, in fact, the bits and pieces which have most tangibly shaped our history and experience. Her boundary-pushing exploration of herself is moving and intimate on levels beyond expectation. Dear Memory marks an important step in the evolution of Chang’s work, and I look forward to seeing its impact unfold in the literary sphere.”