One or more pictures stand out as the book’s primal raison d’etre; that is, there is at least one picture which activates a “flashbulb memory” from the creator’s childhood and which the story explains in an ambiguous way. The manifest storybook explanation for this primal scene is benign and reassuring while the latent and historical interpretation is traumatic and unbearable.
* Lillian Li *
After my grandmother died, my mother was given all of her possessions. There was a lifetime of sentimental trinkets, of furniture that had never gone a day without its dust-protecting plastic jacket, and of strange redundancies. My grandmother left her with four refrigerators, three televisions, and twelve swatches of fox fur. My mother complained to a friend that she had no idea what to give up, what to throw away, what to burn. There was no talk of keeping.
Clarie, first a word then a name, grounds this story and eventually breaks out from a war letter. To know a story, to discover its how and why, will mean recovering, digging back toward its beginning—and that means memory.
* poetry by Kara Van De Graf from MQR 53:3, Summer 2014 *
From the grandmother of my grandmother, it lives
at the footboard of the bed, passed down to me
by my own mother. As a child, I traced
the blonde-wood petals of flowers, the garden
etched with dark walnut vines. And below,
near a lip of scrollwork, two narrow drawers kept
in check by a key. It was only when I slid
the drawers from their runners that I noticed
Before I became a mother, I thought I’d take my child(ren) back to Malaysia for Deepavali every year. For various reasons, I haven’t made that particular trip with my daughter since she was born in 2009, although we’ve been to Malaysia three times as a family.