Victoria Chang's Dear Memory grapples with the nature of memory and how one bears the personal traumas of those that came before. Using a collection of ephemera left by her mother as a point of departure, the accomplished poet frames letters to intimates as a way to navigate her own grief and explore memories of what shaped her sense of self while growing up. While the papers left behind by Chang's mother are a record of past events, Chang's letters demonstrate how their effects continue to resonate--across time, oceans, and through generations. 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.
Zauner reports that her mother adored the word "lovely," which for her "encompassed a certain beauty and ardor"--an apt description for Zauner's memoir itself. In moving prose, the singer paints a vivid picture of the pain she endured growing up as the biracial daughter of a Korean mother (with whom she had a complex relationship) and an American father, one that will resonate deeply with those who straddle the line between two cultures. Using food as a central motif, Zauner organizes her account around the dishes and snacks that evoke particular memories, showing us intimate moments she shared with her family in Oregon and Seoul; so richly intertwined are the meals and emotions, that Zauner uses loss of appetite as a metaphor for grief and decline. This is a raw--and truly lovely--work that will stay with you.