cover image Nervous: Essays on Heritage and Healing

Nervous: Essays on Heritage and Healing

Jen Soriano. Amistad, $29.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-323013-2

In this probing memoir in essays, Soriano (Making the Tongue Dry) serves up personal meditations on intergenerational trauma, her Filipino heritage, and suffering from chronic pain. The daughter of hardworking and sometimes aloof Filipino immigrant parents, Soriano recounts feeling compelled by their example to bottle up her feelings: “I’m supposed to continue a silent lineage—be wordless in pain, resilient and productive, a walking American dream.” Contending that “psychological trauma lives in our nervous systems,” she relates her therapist’s assessment that her mental health struggles and arm, back, and neck pain are borne from the “emotional neglect” she endured as a child. Elsewhere, she suggests her health problems may also bear the legacy of the trauma suffered by her grandparents in the Philippines during WWII, when their house was occupied by Japanese soldiers and her grandfather died in a prisoner of war camp. Stress-induced changes in the expression of her grandmother’s genes might have passed down her trauma, Soriano explains, describing a study that found children of Holocaust survivors were “more likely to have PTSD than the children of Jewish parents who had not experienced the Holocaust.” She also discusses how becoming active in local organizing within the Filipino community of San Francisco, where she moved in her mid-20s, proved pivotal to her healing. Candid and affecting, this family saga testifies to the far-reaching effects of trauma. (Aug.)