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Li Young Lee had 3 siblings with him in Chicago and on stayed in China. His parents were upset about the child they had to leave behind but they were never really clear on why the child was left. His life was basically shaped from his families struggles and the transition from moving to Chicago from China. One struggle he had was being poor since his family was well-off while living in China. But he grows from the mistakes of his father who also was a church pastor in China and some of the things his father would preach were things he did not agree with.

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She kind of reminds me of my mom because my mom would die before me or my brother would go without something that we needed. One question I had about the book was did Li Young Lee ever find his sibling left in China and why did they leave him? Overall I think this book was okay but not really a book I would read because it was boring but I can relate because people from my family were immigrants from Jamaica.

Sep 30, Valerie Valentine rated it really liked it. More than anything this was a remembrance of his father. The poetry sings strongly in some sections, making the prose so dense that the book, although small, actually took me a long time to read. Some of the phrases are outright luminous. Some of the stories he told about his father were really shocking, for example the beatings contrasted with his pastorliness. A reader imagines his father More than anything this was a remembrance of his father. They make an extraordinary escape to the US, where the family starts over and Lee grows up struggling with language and identity.

The seed is an apt metaphor for generations. If English were more artful symbols than just letters I think we would naturally be more metaphorical - it changes the way a culture describes things. View 1 comment. I appreciated his straightforward stories very much--his family's history in China and Indonesia, his parents' further-back history, his childhood in the U. He touches on some deeply personal things and family skeletons and also larger swaths of history that his family was caught up in.

There's a lot of absurdity and cruelty in both, although his immediate family seems to have at least something of a kind center even with the distance between himself and his father, when that kindness is dire I appreciated his straightforward stories very much--his family's history in China and Indonesia, his parents' further-back history, his childhood in the U.

There's a lot of absurdity and cruelty in both, although his immediate family seems to have at least something of a kind center even with the distance between himself and his father, when that kindness is directed more toward the congregation than to him. I did not really understand much of the intermittent poetry in paragraph form.

I think I understood that the whole thing is a night's thoughts--sometimes he's sleeping even if he doesn't know it , other times he's free associating or letting his mind drift, he observes his sleeping partner, he reminisces, he looks outside because he can't sleep. I felt that he was talking only to himself in many of the more poetic sections. Who is R? The sun? His father? A person? No idea, no help from him to figure it out I do not have a problem with this, free expression and all, but those sections didn't really help me understand him, his relationship to his father, or history and memory.

I reread many sections and still only got an overall impression.

The language is beautiful, the images are vivid, but I couldn't make them connect. Maybe that's the point? Poetry continues to elude me. Dec 28, David Schaafsma rated it really liked it Shelves: auto-bio-memoir , father-brother-sons-book. A poetic memoir of poet Li-Young Lee's father who was imprisoned in Indonesia and escaped to Hong Kong and then to Pennsylvania to become a Presbyterian minister. Part thriller, part biography, part poem… through it we get to meet a man who is an admired and passionate spiritual leader and a tyrant.

Fear and love fuel this tale, but mostly love. More than a tale of than factual accounting, it is more an evocation of associations and mystery, whereby it gains its strength and power. It's a tale o A poetic memoir of poet Li-Young Lee's father who was imprisoned in Indonesia and escaped to Hong Kong and then to Pennsylvania to become a Presbyterian minister.

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It's a tale of immigration, too, and the alienation that accompanies this process for Lee. Oct 05, Greg Lehman rated it really liked it. This is one of the most bizarre books I've ever read. At times the imagery, however inventive and beautiful, became so opaque that the plot seemed to have been traded in for a stream of consciousness-style poem.

I love Lee's poetry, and it was interesting to learn about his upbringing, but I can see this one polarizing readers. I was definitely a fan, though. This is an ontological question as much as a phenomenological one. One is reminded of Lucretius's poem De Rerum Natura, whose existence as literary work and conveyance of the sometime banned ideas of Epicureanism, which gave us the earliest scientific surmise of atoms as constitutive of matter, owed its survival to its intrinsic beauty of form.

By the same token, this memoir in particular shall survive in some purity of form if not indeed for being an ambiguous and ambivalent story of survival and refuge, and of course of much more besides. Li-Young Lee's memoir writing is exacting of the reader's solipsism of reading in the reading's enacting the very cracking or attempt at cracking the story's seed as allegory and hard nut.

Probably unconsciously taking a page from Portugal's Fernando Pessoa, specifically Pessoa's factless autobiography The Book of Disquiet, the reader will begin to recognize the fragile weft of emotions drawn through the warp of hard facts of this woven recounting and accounting of loss and of even more loss and some gain of perspective that is at once tentative and longing to erase and see again. And this is very likely not a unique situation in the Chinese diaspora, not the diaspora of the China of post-Deng Xiaoping, but of the brutal decades and centuries before the s when to be Chinese is to be murdered in Suharto's Indonesia.

I attended on the weekend a symposium of sorts. There, I heard it recounted by Annie Wong her quite moving account of her research into Chinese ancestor worhip and the burning of joss paper, how after all of that, there was for her efforts but silence and nothing she could know from her mother of why things are no longer done in the family. On hearing Annie's talk and what came across as palpable grief, I returned in my recollection to Li-Young Lee's writing where the contention is perhaps very similar but made articulate rather than passed over into silence.

But this articulation is not at all straightforward, not even meandering. Rather it is the enigma of silence and of the left unsaid.

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In Li-Young Lee's case, it was perhaps not nothing but a totality of an entirety of everything, direct experiences etched and scarred in traumas of childhood and growing up and of obstinacy of spirit and the gentle character of a Bildung that eats itself. This is of course not the first Chinese memoir there is. It could be argued that the Zhou and Shang dynasties, the first to establish rites and ceremonial protocols in court as templates for other courts and succeeding courts to follow and re-enact, were institutionalizing cyclical time.

The circle in its perfection nods at eternity, imitates heaven, and purports an axis mundi in the order of heavenly and earthly affairs. While a memoirist in the Western literary genre would not sufficiently have this burden of cyclicality, for anyone of Chinese heritage it is an onus of being, the rites of ancestor worship a necessary telos as well as method of remembrancing sans gimmick of banal formalities such as actual story telling. The piety accorded to ancestors and to family especially of a certain Chinese authentic is non-Heideggerian.

The anxiety of the dasein is not its futurity reaching back into its present; rather it is the day-to-day inexorably always lived in angst of ancestry of past and of immediate beyond relief or release. Into this mix add "tiger mothering" and the notion in the diaspora of the "model minority" and you soon realize how a strict fastidiousness of name and honour makes progenitors eat their young. And the young know no differently, bumping into a kind of epistemology of false consciousness of surviving piety and despite success.

Li-Young Lee in the end simply writes or writes simply of the unmentionability of a kind of tetragrammaton indulged at puerile play with an unfamiliar language of being within the unbroken vow of silence. Why is this? His YHWH is sintered in this book, the old testament palpability and severity a heavy presence, but here also nudged into a synoptic gospel of benevolence and forgiveness the memoirist works out for himself and perhaps also for us.

May 15, Mary Johnson rated it really liked it. A poetic memoir that circles around themes of life and death, emigration and immigration, family and love. Don't expect a straightforward narrative; expect to be taken on a poetic journey into consciousness. Mar 06, Justin rated it liked it. At times, it's a beautiful work, and his play with genre conventions is nice. When he slips into the modernist ramblings -- the "This Is Me Creating Art" moments -- he loses it a little. Lee has published a few volumes of poetry and it appears he is a poet at heart so it's no wonder his take on what mostly focuses on his family and childhood growing up in Jakarta is abundant with flowy, pretty language.

Lee's writing style is so beautiful you almost forget for a minute that this slim book is not really happy memories but some pretty horrific imagery and history. The book alternates between more straight forward remembrances told in a basic memoir type style and stream of consciousness poetic ramblings. These two differing styles go in and out and you sort of feel you are riding a wave. Or enclosed in some dream like state where you wake up during the more coherent parts.

In a way these stream of consciousness ramblings filled with pretty, delicate language could be a defense mechanism employed by the author. Or protection for the reader. Either way as pretty and well written as these sections are this type of style that takes up about half the book sort of makes the reader feel detached from the characters in this horrible history of Lee's.

You just don't build up the emotional connection with the people who are in the author's life so you don't feel the pain as bad. It's not as striking. It feels somewhat wrong to levy criticism on a book that is so well written with such beautiful language. But in this type of setting I wish more of the book was told in more of the straight forward style. This is mostly an account of the authors history with his father. The stark opposing nature of his father's personality. That of a suspected enemy of the state jailed in his home of Jakarta for 19 months for dubious reasons.

The dual nature of this personality, he who would beat his children, yet was a beloved and adored preacher not only abroad but also here in Philadelphia where the family after much moving finally settled. It's apparent the author has love for this man though as some scenes later on in the book detail Lee gently bathing his dying father later in life. There is one scene in the book during this bathing scene that Lee pulls off well, where another writer would have exploited this type of history for drama detailing pages.

Lee plays it subtle and it's left for the reader to digest. I recalled his telling me when I was a boy how he'd lost his toenails in prison, but that was another story. But Lee just leaves this bit of information to the reader to conjure up the imagery for themselves. It's never referred to again.

The way he just puts that information out there, dangles it and leaves it, is just sort of brilliant to me. The book is ripe and full of terrible things. The tales of his well to do but cruel and insane grandfather. The various abuses Lee and his siblings endured.

His father's sad end.

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There is a lot of pain wrapped in these pages. His mother being gone for a good portion of their childhood waiting at the prison all day for their father. None of this is happy. There are small passages of Lee's life now that seem very happy, but these cover just a couple of pages. It's a sad and tragic story. But worth reading. Jun 02, Joanne J rated it it was amazing. Being a fan of Lee's poetry I thought I'd give his prose a try. He definitely has the heart of a poet and it is reflected in this beautifully written memoir.

While a small-in-size book, you can't rush through it as it demands as much of the reader as it did of the poet writing it. Lee mixes straight forward prose with poetic reflections on his childhood, the meaning of a seed, and memories of his mother and father living in Jakarta. I felt like I wanted to immediately reread it when I finished a Being a fan of Lee's poetry I thought I'd give his prose a try. I felt like I wanted to immediately reread it when I finished as I'm sure I missed some of his allusions.

Mar 12, Saadia rated it really liked it.


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It was interesting. Awesome imagery. However, it was hard to read and absorb. Very fine command of English. Jun 23, Austin Araujo rated it it was amazing Shelves: , poetry , mfa. Equal parts luminous and esoteric. This book is a reckoning with rage. But more, too.

Sep 10, Helen rated it liked it. I like the author's poetry, but I'm not sure the whole stream of consciousness poetic language works as well in memoir. There were parts that I was completely lost, especially when personal pronouns aren't used. Dec 04, Nimitha T. I love Li Young's poems.

This reads like prose poetry.


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It's amazing in some parts and incoherent in others. It's like a string of dreams and nightmares, childhood impressions and unresolved traumas passed down for generations that leaves the reader in a trance somewhere between the realm of sleep and wakefulness.! Mar 31, Dekie Hicks rated it really liked it. Interesting memoir, ethereal, introspective, with beautiful, poetic naturally! Oct 28, Ambrosia rated it really liked it. A friend handed me this book after reading some of my poetry, saying that mine had reminded her of it.

And I'm greatly flattered, because this is a beautiful book; although not technically poetry in the sense that it's not written in verse , it's infused throughout with a poetic sensibility, that stream-of-consciousness imagery-laden style that so befits its subtitle of "a remembrance".

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The author presents a number of scenes with heartrending honesty, and although it takes a while, you start to A friend handed me this book after reading some of my poetry, saying that mine had reminded her of it. The author presents a number of scenes with heartrending honesty, and although it takes a while, you start to see how they all fit together in his personal history. For all his forthrightness in relating his childhood trauma, however, the present-time Li-Young Lee remains something of a mystery, only referenced in passing; this is likely intentional, as whether or not there's anything more to him than these experiences is a subject of some debate in the text.

This may sound like a damning statement, especially for writers of nonfiction—and yet it seems that over a decade before Cowen Lee followed the same philosophy when writing this book. It is sometimes marketed as a memoir and sometimes as an autobiography, but if we have to put a genre label on it, I propose to call it by its subtitle: a remembrance. Lee presents the reader with a series of memories—his own as well as those that his parents shared with him about their own lives. And the intimacy is only heightened in the few moments when a present-day narrator does step in with a direct address to his love, as if the whole book is the kind of revelation we make in courtship.

At the core of this book is an exploration of the winged seed—the seed that can be carried far from its original tree.