cover image Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief

Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence, and Grief

Victoria Chang. Milkweed Editions, $25 (168p) ISBN 978-1-57131-392-8

Chang (Obit) brings a poet’s lyricism to considering grief and memory in this powerful collection of letters. Mixing official documents, handwritten notes, photographs, and correspondence, she creates a moving consideration of ancestry and loss. There are letters to family members—one, titled “Dear Mother,” is filled with Chang’s speculations about her mother’s move from China to Taiwan: “I would like to know if you took a train. If you walked. If you had pockets in your dress.” Letters are also written to nonfamilial characters in Chang’s life, among them “Dear Teacher,” to a high school English teacher who “loved to read,” and others to a slew of various acquaintances. Several pieces aren’t addressed to people at all: there’s “Dear Silence,” which discusses language and shame; “Dear Body,” which asks, “Have you ever wondered when I would let you go?”; and “Dear Ford Motor Company,” which features a perfect-attendance letter sent from the company to the author’s father. As Chang recounts the death of her mother and what it means to remember, her 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. (Oct.)