Rarely have I been so completely sold on a book after reading just the first page. Seeing Ghosts is often doing two things at once: it is deftly guided and also meandering; it is self-possessed while self-interrogating; and, at its heart, it is grieving a loss and honoring a legacy. Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
For readers of Helen Macdonald and Elizabeth Alexander, an intimate and haunting portrait of grief and the search for meaning from a singular new talent as told through the prism of three generations of her Chinese American family.
Kat Chow has always been unusually fixated on death. She worried constantly about her parents dying — especially her mother. A vivacious and mischievous woman, Kat's mother made a morbid joke that would haunt her for years to come: when she died, she'd like to be stuffed and displayed in Kat's future apartment in order to always watch over her.
After her mother dies unexpectedly from cancer, Kat, her sisters, and their father are plunged into a debilitating, lonely grief. With a distinct voice that is wry and heartfelt, Kat weaves together a story of the fallout of grief that follows her extended family as they emigrate from China and Hong Kong to Cuba and America. Seeing Ghosts asks what it means to reclaim and tell your family's story: Is writing an exorcism or is it its own form of preservation? The result is an extraordinary new contribution to the literature of the American family, and a provocative and transformative meditation on who we become facing loss.
"This haunting, deeply moving, and beautifully written chronicle of the immense grief that once tore Chow's family apart and now binds them will resonate with every reader." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Kat Chow dares to explore the lingering dynamics of her family's shared grief in her breathtaking debut memoir." TIME Magazine
"How do we know our mothers? This seemed to me to be what this powerful memoir brought into focus for me. From the narrow window we have of them from childhood, expanding outward as we grow older, and then after their death, when they cannot keep their secrets from us, including that also, the result is a prismatic vision of the mother in these pages, of Chow's mother, but all our mothers. This is a book that asks us to consider if we allow our mothers to be human — and ourselves, too. A daring, loving, searing debut." Alexander Chee, bestselling author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
"A moving depiction of grief at its most mundane and spectacular." Publishers Weekly
"Chow wraps tragedy and history into an affecting memorial. A powerful remembrance of a family unmoored by the loss of its matriarch." Kirkus Reviews
"I read Seeing Ghosts with a great sense of luck and relief that Kat Chow's book shares the ground with the best memoirs: that they are the archeologists of memory, unearthing places we have wavered in going. Like all books that haunt us long after reading, Seeing Ghosts is a courageous act of excavation and salvage. It is also a feat of rescue and healing." Ocean Vuong, New York Times bestselling author of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
About the Author
Kat Chow is a writer and a journalist. She was a reporter at NPR, where she was a founding member of the Code Switch team. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, and on Radiolab, among others. She's one of Pop Culture Happy Hour's fourth chairs. She's received a residency fellowship from the Millay Colony and was an inaugural recipient of the Yi Dae Up fellowship at the the Jack Jones Literary Arts Retreat.