Whenever I am away from working directly in Northern California, I bring loads and loads of books with me. Only seldom do I choose to bring memoirs/autobiography because it has been a genre that I have been conflicted with in terms of the aspect of “truth-telling” that it draws from. I therefore tend to be egregiously judgmental of memoirs and autobiographies. Few stand the test and those that are within the field I tend to have trouble teaching or desiring to teach. For instance, I have always found it difficult to put Jade Snow Wong’s Fifth Chinese Daughter on my syllabi, despite its “canonical” status. Nevertheless, there have been memoirs that I have found very productive and courageous. Indeed, I have found that the best memoirs are a process in which the writer simply bears their soul without recourse to covering up what may seem problematic or murky about one’s views or one’s experiences. David Mura’s Where the Body Meets Memory and Turning Japanese have been my favorites in this sense and so, too, is Jane Jeong Trenka’s first memoir, The Language of Blood. There is a genre of creative nonfiction that I think it is infinitely difficult to master, but here are writers who clearly blossom within the genre’s constraints. Fugitive Visions is unrelenting, a piece that borders on prose poetry, and moves the reader from the primarily domestic American spaces of The Language of Blood to Korean geographies, where a Korean adoptee adjusts to another “home” space. As a companion to The Language of Blood, Fugitive Visions is more loosely strung together as a series of meditative pieces, but the form fits perfectly within the scope of a musical thematics that are woven throughout the memoir. Here, I am speaking of Sergei Prokofiev, who composed the analog to the memoir’s title, Visions Fugitive, for the piano, which were a series of short piano pieces. As such, the fragmented nature of the memoir fits along this trajectory, where music impels and compels a series of profound realizations for the author. I highly encourage this memoir or the The Language of Blood as essential teaching texts for, especially for considerations of form/genre, Asian American literature, or transnationalism/globalization type courses.
Buy The Language of Blood here:
You can pre-order Fugitive Visions here:
Jane Jeong Trenka’s blog can be found here: