cover image Names for Light: A Family History

Names for Light: A Family History

Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint. Graywolf, $16 (176p) ISBN 978-1-644-45061-1

In this hypnotic memoir, Burmese-American novelist Myint (The End of Peril, the End of Enmity, the End of Strife, a Haven) looks to myth and folklore to explore her family’s legacy. Ghosts, reincarnated relatives, dark omens, and imagined scenes populate a timeline that oscillates between the author’s forbears’ past and present day, stretching from Myanmar, where she was born in 1989, to Thailand, California, Spain, and Colorado. In lyrical prose, Myint straddles dream and reality beginning with a mythic take on her great-grandfather, who “died a man but was reborn as me.” Lived experience is overlaid with speculative history, as Myint, who moved to the U.S. as a child, mines the alienation—sowed by the colonialism and racism endured by generations of her family—that has rendered her “a ghost” throughout her life. To fill the void of loneliness surrounding her, she pieces together her family’s past, from her mother’s “cursed” home in Yangon and her parents’ marriage on a lake that was “constructed by the British” to her older brother’s illness and death (“I also believed he had drowned in the lake”). While her poetic narration is indisputably alluring, the nonlinear story line can sometimes become taxing. For those willing to put in the work, this serpentine narrative is a thing of beauty. (Aug.)