Memoir Monday
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GHOST WEEK: Is writing about family a kindness or intrusion? Kat Chow’s SEEING GHOSTS: A Memoir about her mother, race, culture, immigration, more, plus a writing prompt


By Leslie Lindsay

“[…]The archaeologists 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.”

–Ocean Vuong, New York Times bestselling author of ON EARTH WE ARE BRIEFLY BEAUTIFUL

~WRITERS INTERVIEWING WRITERS~

GHOST WEEK

ALWAYS WITH A BOOK|MEMOIR MONDAY

Featured Spotlight: SEEING GHOSTS: A Memoir

Kat Chow is a writer and journalist, a former NPR reporter, and the 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 is one of Pop Culture Happy Hour’s fourth chairs. She received residency fellowships from the Millay Colony and the Jack Jones Literary Arts Retreat. She lives near Washington, D.C. SEEING GHOSTS (Grand Central Publishing, August 24 2021) is her highly anticipated first book.

ABOUT SEEING GHOSTS:

A powerful and haunting portrait of grief told through the prism of three generations of Kat Chow’s family. Always unusually fixated on death, Kat worried constantly about her parents dying–especially her mother. I vivacious and mischievous woman, Kat’s mother once 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 home in order to always watch over her.

“As a loving tribute, Chow vibrantly tells the story of her mother’s life with great dexterity and in luminous detail. … By uniting family memories, elements of Chinese culture, and an intimate perspective, Chow wraps tragedy and history into an affecting memorial. A powerful remembrance of a family unmoored by the loss of its matriarch.”
—Kirkus Reviews

Chow’s mother unexpectedly dies from cancer, just two weeks after her diagnosis. Kat, only 13 at the time, her sisters, and her father are quickly plunged into the debilitating, lonely grief, but more: did the something else cause her death? Did her father know more than he was letting on? Was foul-play at hand? Here, the story of Kat’s mother becomes a bit of a mystery. Kat delves into her mother’s cultural past and pieces together what she believes may have happened, as well as her own morbid curiosities. SEEING GHOSTS is as much a story of grief as a it is one of immigration, cultural assimilation, and more. There’s an allusive reference to the question of a possible mental illness, but this is not overt, and perhaps only projected on my part, yet there were some deeper subtext that led me to believe this could be a piece of the story.

The writing is poetic and lucid, about memory and death, birth, and so much more.

Setting designed and photographed by L.Lindsay. Join us on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #bookstagrammer #alwayswithabook

~Writing Prompt~

Consider this statement from Chow,

“The immigrant family tries to preserve a history and a life that the surrounding resist. They try to invent a new way of being while always seeking a home within the negative space.”

What ways have you tried to ‘write yourself home?’ Does the idea of home truly exist? If you excise yourself from your origin, do you immediately assume the new life? What lingers? Why? Are we rooted in place or something more elusive, something inherent?

How would you reclaim your family’s story: is writing a form of exorcism or a form or preservation? If we excavate darker family truths and dysfunctions and expose them, is it a kindness or an intrusion?

For more information, to connect with Kat Chow, or to purchase a copy of SEEING GHOSTS, please visit:

ORDER LINKS:

  • Support your local in-person bookstore or order through Bookshop.org
  • This title may also be available through other online sellers. 

You might also like:

I was reminded of Catherine Cho’s INFERNO, Gayle Brandeis’s her THE ART OF MISDIAGNOSIS: Surviving my Mother’s Suicidewith a touch of Laraine Herring’s A CONSTELLATION OF GHOSTS: A Speculative Memoir.

Browse all books featured on Always with a Book since 2018 on Bookshop.org

Looking for your next book? New authors/titles, author interviews and insights here, http://www.leslielindsay.com|Always with a Book every Wednesday, but some Mondays and Fridays, too.

NEXT:

A round-up of Maggie Smith’s poetry, Naomi Kupitsky’s THE FAMILY, A feature of A GHOST IN THE THROAT by Doireann Ní Ghríofa, among others.

Further Reading: See this August 2021 NPR review of SEEING GHOSTS

You can catch me on:

InstagramTwitter, Facebook|Always with a BookFacebook|Speaking of Apraxia, and GoodReads

If you loved this interview, please consider sharing it on social media. Reviewing books and talking about them with others on-line and in-person is one small way to engage with & support the literary community.

Photo by Caleb Wood on Pexels.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kat Chow is a reporter and writer. Her memoir, Seeing Ghosts, is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing and will be published on Aug. 24, 2021. She was most recently 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, New York Magazine’s The Cut and on Radiolab and The Sporkful. She’s an occasional fourth chair on Pop Culture Happy Hour and has guest hosted Slate’s podcast The Waves.

She’s reported on what defines Native American identity, gentrification in New York City’s Chinatown, and the aftermath of a violent hate crime. Her cultural criticism has led her on explorations of racial representation in TV, film, and theater; the post-election crisis that diversity trainers facerace and beauty standards; and gaslighting. Her work has garnered her a national award from the Asian American Journalists Association, and she’s received a residency fellowship from the Millay Colony as well as the Yi Dae Up fellowship at the Jack Jones Literary Arts Retreat. She has led master classes and spoken about her reporting in Amsterdam, Calgary, Minneapolis, Louisville, Boston and Seattle.

She’s drawn to stories about race, gender and generational differences.  

Photo retrieved from author’s website

ABOUT YOUR HOST:

Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series, “Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warm, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Shari Lapena to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in various print journals and online, including Psychology Today, Mud Season Review, A Door = Jar, Mutha, Literary Mama, The Manifest-Station, among others. She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech, an audiobook narrated by Leslie from Penguin Random House. A former psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic, Leslie’s memoir, MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness, & Memory, is currently on submission with Catalyst Literary Management. Leslie resides in the Chicago area with her family.

Photo cred: K.M. Lindsay

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