ISBN-10: 1571313923
ISBN-13: 9781571313928
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publish Date: 10/12/2021
Dimensions: 9.40" L, 6.90" W, 0.70" H

Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief


Price: $25.00


A Kirkus Best 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.

Other Honors for Dear Memory:

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 2021An NPR Most Anticipated Book of October 2021

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Praise for Dear Memory

"[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." –New Yorker

"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." –Thúy Dinh, NPR

"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." New York Times Book Review

"Both a chronicling of [Chang's] family's history and a powerful, stirring rumination on ancestry, inherited trauma and home." TIME Magazine, "Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2021"

"[Dear Memory is] a collage of fragments constituting a moving portrait of the poet herself." Los Angeles Times, "Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2021"

"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." –Lorraine Berry, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"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." –Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

"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." –Literary Hub, "Most Anticipated Books of 2021"

"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." –Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"Ever inventive, ever searching, Chang bends genres to approach an unmanageable emotion." –Observer

"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." Colorado Review

"Victoria Chang's Dear Memory is a tender exploration of grief, an excavation into stories untold, memories unshared, the treasures that await our discoveries if we trace through 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." –Kao Kalia Yang

"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." –Mrittika Ghosh, Seminary Co-op Bookstore

"Victoria Chang's Dear Memory grapples with the nature of memory and how one bears the personal traumas of those who 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." –Isa S. Politics & Prose

Praise for Victoria Chang

"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."–The Millions

"Chang's star is rising, and lucky for us, she writes with compassion, grace, and a true ethical sensibility."–Los Angeles Review of Books

"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."–Kansas City Star

Praise for OBIT

Finalist for the 2021 PEN / Voelcker Award for Poetry Collection

Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry

Longlisted for the 2020 National Book Award in Poetry

"Chang's new collection explores her father's illness and her mother's death, treating mortality as a constantly shifting enigma. A serene acceptance of grief emerges from these poems."–New York Times, "100 Notable Books of 2020"

"Chang's sharp crystallizations of the pain and disorientation of death, and the way it reverberates through life, bring us to the raw heart of grief without the overblown language of classical elegy. These are poems that reproduce the logic and feeling of loss–a gift for anyone who has struggled to find words to express grief."–NPR

"In [OBIT], mortality is not a before and after state, but rather a constantly shifting enigma."–New York Times Book Review

"Exceptional . . . Chang's poems expand and contract to create surprising geometries of language, vividly capturing the grief they explore."–Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Chang has created a unique poetic construct. . . . The feeling of hope is a theme throughout this solid collection, in variations Chang evokes with grace: 'Hope / is the wildest bird, the one that flies / so fast it will either disappear or burst / into flames.' Chang's poetry fine tunes that conflagration with acuity."–Booklist

"[OBIT] marshals all the resources of poetry against the relentless emotional cascade that's associated with death–and, very much to its credit, and as a testament to its success, the book has arrived at a kind of momentary stalemate against that cascade."–Rick Barot

"A long elegy for the poet's mother, OBIT is the kind of poetry collection that creates a new genre. A reinvention of form? A symphony? A manifesto? All of the above and then some. It is heartbreaking and enthralling. It sings and instructs. It is a world all its own; one that changes ours."–Ilya Kaminsky

"Here we have unmitigated heartbreak–but heartbreak mercifully free of the usual 'death etiquette' platitudes of 'after-lives' or 'better offs.' Thus, Chang has created something powerful and unconventional. These poems are zinger curveballs, and often come from the graveyard's left field."–Los Angeles Review of Books

"These obits are fearless. They are also specific and intimate. . . . The emotional power of Chang's OBIT comes from the grace and honesty with which she turns this familiar form inside out to show us the private side of family, the knotting together of generations, the bewilderment of grief."–Ploughshares

Praise for Barbie Chang

"But [Chang's readers] won't be the only ones [who like Chang's new work]–and not even they will expect Chang's grander scope, her greater nuance, and her more generous attention to its characters' adult lives. . . . Chang's punctuation-free lines, like WS Merwin's, invite overlapping readings and multiple syntax. Her pathos slows down for jokes, apercus, and hyper-contemporary puns. . . . Such invitations are hard to resist, and they ring."–Stephanie Burt, Academy of American Poets

"Chang entrances with wordplay, but the dance never feels hollow: this is performance with poetic soul. . . . Don't miss the exquisitely crafted litany of linked poems in the middle of the book, evidence how quickly and precisely Chang can turn from comic to comforting to transcendent."–The Millions

"Chang is emerging as an exciting voice in contemporary poetry, and [Barbie Chang] is undoubtedly her most accomplished volume to date."–Publishers Weekly

More Reviews


ISBN-10: 1571313923
ISBN-13: 9781571313928
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publish Date: 10/12/2021
Dimensions: 9.40" L, 6.90" W, 0.70" H
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