What happens when there is mourning with no closure, when a family member or a friend who may be still alive is lost to us nonetheless? How, for example, does the mother whose soldier son is missing in action, or the family of an Alzheimer’s patient who is suffering from severe dementia, deal with the uncertainty surrounding this kind of loss?
American Grief in Four Stages is a collection of stories that imagines trauma as a space in which language fails us and narrative escapes us. These stories play with form and explore the impossibility of elegy and the inability of our culture to communicate grief, or sympathy, outside of cliché.
One narrator, for example, tries to understand her brother’s suicide by excavating his use of idioms. Other stories construe grief and trauma in much subtler ways—the passing of an era or of a daughter’s childhood, the seduction of a neighbor, the inability to have children. From a dinner party with Aztecs to an elderly shut-in’s recollection of her role in the Salem witch trials, these are stories that defy expectations and enrich the imagination. As a whole, this collection asks the reader to envisage the ways in which we suffer as both unbearably painful and unbearably American.
Winner of the 2020 Poetry Society of America's William Carlos Williams Award
Because What Else Could I Do is a sequence of fifty-five untitled short poems, almost all of them addressed to the poet’s husband during the six months following his sudden and shocking death. Perhaps best known for her historical explorations of sociopolitical issues, Martha Collins did not originally intend to publish these poems. But while they are intensely personal, they make use of all of her poetic attention and skills. Spare, fragmented, musical even in their most heartbreaking moments, the poems allow the reader to share both an intimate expression the poet’s grief and a moving record of her attempt to comprehend the events surrounding her loss.
Branka Arsic shows that Thoreau developed a theory of vitalism in response to his brother’s death. Through grieving, he came to see life as a generative force into which everything dissolves and reemerges. This reinterpretation, based on sources overlooked by critics, explains many of Thoreau’s more idiosyncratic habits and obsessions.
When it comes to the end of a relationship, the loss of a loved one, or even a national tragedy, we are often told we need “closure.” But while some people do find closure for their pain and grief, many more feel closure does not exist and believe the notion only promises false hopes. Sociologist Nancy Berns explores these ideas and their ramifications in her timely book, Closure.
Berns uncovers the various interpretations and contradictory meanings of closure. She identifies six types of “closure talk,” revealing closure as a socially constructed concept—a “new emotion.” Berns also explores how closure has been applied widely in popular media and how the idea has been appropriated as a political tool and to sell products and services.
This book explains how the push for closure—whether we find it helpful, engaging, or enraging—is changing our society.
In Companionship in Grief, Jeffrey Berman focuses on the most life-changing event for many people—the death of a spouse. Some of the most acclaimed memoirs of the past fifty years offer insights into this profound loss: C. S. Lewis's A Grief Observed; John Bayley's three memoirs about Iris Murdoch, including Elegy for Iris; Donald Hall's The Best Day the Worst Day; Joan Didion's best-selling The Year of Magical Thinking; and Calvin Trillin's About Alice. These books explore the nature of spousal bereavement, the importance of caregiving, the role of writing in recovery, and the possibility of falling in love again after a devastating loss. Throughout his study, Berman traces the theme of love and loss in all five memoirists' fictional and nonfictional writings as well as in those of their spouses, who were also accomplished writers. Combining literary studies, grief and bereavement theory, attachment theory, composition studies, and trauma theory, Companionship in Grief will appeal to anyone who has experienced love and loss. Berman's research casts light on five remarkable marriages, showing how autobiographical stories of love and loss can memorialize deceased spouses and offer wisdom and comfort to readers.
Kevin Phan University Press of Colorado, 2020 Library of Congress PS3616.H376 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
The prose poetry in Kevin Phan’s first collection, Dears, Beloveds, offers a fine-grained meditation on grief—personal, familial, ecological, and political. Informed by the author’s engagement with Buddhism & mindfulness, the poems address looming absences: in our vanishing earth, the scraps of a haunting voicemail, or waiting at hospice with little to do. In these pages, the poet fights his way out of isolation, to establish filigrees of connectedness with himself, other humans, and the natural world. Whether meditating on the bodily loss of his cancer-stricken mother, the Black Lives Matter movement, or a shadow falling from a speck of dust in the kitchen, these lines are notable for their crisp and surprising movements, lucid imagery, aching tenderness, & humanity. Dears, Beloveds reminds us of the ironies, beauty, and complexity of our time on earth, as beings in time. Where we hurt. Where we heal each other.
The 14 stories of The Dogs of Detroiteach focus on grief and its many strange permutations. This grief alternately devolves into violence, silence, solitude, and utter isolation. In some cases, grief drives the stories as a strong, reactionary force, and yet in other stories, that grief evolves quietly over long stretches of time. Many of the stories also use grief as a prism to explore the beguiling bonds within families. The stories span a variety of geographies, both urban and rural, often considering collisions between the two.
A Fine Yellow Dust
Laura Apol Michigan State University Press, 2021 Library of Congress PS3601.P64F56 2021 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
In late April 2017, Laura Apol’s twenty-six-year-old daughter, Hanna, took her own life. Apol had long believed in the therapeutic possibilities of writing, having conducted workshops on writing-for-healing for more than a decade. Yet after Hanna’s death, she had her own therapeutic writing to do, turning her anguish, disbelief, and love into poems that map the first year of loss. This collection is the result of that writing, giving voice to grief as it is lived, moment by moment, memory by memory, event by event. While most writing about loss does so from a distance, Apol chooses instead to write from inside those days and months and seasons, allowing readers to experience alongside the poet the moments, the questions, and the deep longings that shape the first grief-year.
"I made a person out of myself and became an individual with a life and work of my own." *** 'For Us It Was Heaven' tells the story of a young, upper middle-class nurse in the 1930s who becomes dramatically caught up in Spain's civil war and the passionate political issues of her times, but whose intimate writings reveal emotions and attitudes that will strike a chord with most self-aware and determined women today. Patience Darton's unpublished letters and papers from 1930s Spain and 1950s China are at the heart of this new biography, together with testimony from recorded interviews and a wealth of photographs that illustrate the life of this remarkable woman. While Darton was a medical nurse near the front lines in Spain, she met and fell in love with Robert, a German volunteer in the International Brigades, deeply committed to fighting fascism. Their passionate relationship colored the rest of her long life, taking her to communist China and then, finally, back to Spain.
Amy Kenyon University of Michigan Press, 2012 Library of Congress PS3611.E676F67 2012 | Dewey Decimal 813.6
After the death of her mother, Kay Seger abandons her career as a historical consultant to a Los Angeles film company and returns to her childhood home in Michigan. There, she rekindles a teenage love affair with Joe Chase, now a Vietnam War veteran and Ford auto worker. Afflicted by grief and the mysterious symptoms of an unidentified ailment, Kay, at Joe's urging, begins an investigation of her family's past.
As Kay pores over the boxes of papers, letters, and photo albums her mother left behind, vivid recollections of a bygone Detroit, ragged and teeming at the start of the automotive age, come to life alongside snapshots of Michigan's rural western counties after the settlement of the frontier. In the midst of her searches, Kay comes across the long-forgotten medical history of nostalgia, and it is this new knowledge that helps her to recover the lost histories of her family and find a resolution to her troubled relationship with Joe.
An exploration of memory as both pathology and promise, Ford Road offers a moving examination of the injuries we inflict on the people closest to us, the worldly injuries that are often beyond our control, and our astonishing ability to act upon and inhabit our own stories. It is also a meditation on American car culture, the road, and the role of early Hollywood in the creation of America's vision of itself. Written in spare, evocative prose, historian Amy Kenyon's first novel is as heartbreaking as it is thought-provoking.
In this profound and hopeful book, a mathematician and celebrated teacher shows how mathematics may help all of us—even the math-averse—to understand and cope with grief.
We all know the euphoria of intellectual epiphany—the thrill of sudden understanding. But coupled with that excitement is a sense of loss: a moment of epiphany can never be repeated. In Geometry of Grief, mathematician Michael Frame draws on a career’s worth of insight—including his work with pioneer of fractal geometry Benoit Mandelbrot—and a gift for rendering the complex accessible as he delves into this twinning of understanding and loss. Grief, Frame reveals, can be a moment of possibility.
Frame investigates grief as a response to an irrevocable change in circumstance. This reframing allows us to see parallels between the loss of a loved one or a career and the loss of the elation of first understanding a tricky concept. From this foundation, Frame builds a geometric model of mental states. An object that is fractal, for example, has symmetry of magnification: magnify a picture of a mountain or a fern leaf—both fractal—and we see echoes of the original shape. Similarly, nested inside great loss are smaller losses. By manipulating this geometry, Frame shows us, we may be able to redirect our thinking in ways that help reduce our pain. Small‐scale losses, in essence, provide laboratories to learn how to meet large-scale losses.
Interweaving original illustrations, clear introductions to advanced topics in geometry, and wisdom gleaned from his own experience with illness and others’ remarkable responses to devastating loss, Frame’s poetic book is a journey through the beautiful complexities of mathematics and life. With both human sympathy and geometrical elegance, it helps us to see how a geometry of grief can open a pathway for bold action.
The Golden Road: Poems
Rachel Hadas Northwestern University Press, 2012 Library of Congress PS3558.A3116G65 2012 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
A central theme of The Golden Road is the prolonged dementia of the poet’s husband. But Rachel Hadas’s new collection sets the loneliness of progressive loss in the context of the continuities that sustain her: reading, writing, and memory; familiar places; and the rich texture of a life fully lived. These poems are meticulously observed, nimble in their deployment of a range of forms, and capacious in their range of reference. They take us to a Greek island, to Carl Schurz Park in New York City, to an old house in Vermont, to a performance of Macbeth, and to the neurology floor of a hospital. Hadas finds beauty in all those places. The Golden Road laments, but it also celebrates.
Grief and the Hero examines Achilles’ experience of the futility of grief in the context of the Iliad’s study of anger. No action can undo his friend Patroklos’ death, but the experience of death drives him to behave as though he can achieve something restorative. Rather than assuming that grief gives rise to anger, as most scholars have done, Grief and the Hero pays close attention to the poem’s representation of the origin of these emotions. In the Iliad, only Achilles’ grief for Patroklos is joined with the word pothê, “longing”; no other grief in the poem is described with this term. The Iliad depicts Achilles’ grief as the rupture of shared life—an insight that generates a new way of reading the epic. Achilles’ anguish drives him to extremes, oscillating between self-isolation and seeking communal expressions of grief; between weeping abundantly and relentlessly pursuing battle; between varied threats of mutilation, deeds of vengeance, and other vows. Yet his yearning for life shared with Patroklos is the common denominator. Here lies the profound insight of the Iliad. All of Achilles’ grief-driven deeds arise from his longing for life with Patroklos, and thus all of these deeds are, in a deep sense, futile. He yearns for something unattainable—undoing the reality of death. Grief and the Hero will appeal not only to scholars and students of Homer but to all humanists. Loss, longing, and even revenge touch many human lives, and the insights of the Iliad have broad resonance.
In his new collection, Jeffrey McDaniel confronts the insular and expansive qualities of loss. With electric language and surrealistic imagery, McDaniel’s poems deliver the quotidian elements of middle-age life while weaving us in & out of childhood and adulthood alongside body and mind. The tragic and life affirming share the same page and the same world, reminding us how close corruption can be to innocence; domesticity to fantasy; aging to youth.
We are underwater off the coast of Belize.
The water is lit up even though its dark
as if there are illuminated seashells
scattered on the ocean floor.
We’re not wearing oxygen tanks,
yet staying underwater for long stretches.
We are looking for the body of the boy
we lost. Each year he grows a little older.
Last December I opened his knapsack
and stuck in a plastic box of carrots.
Even though we’re underwater, we hear
a song playing over a policeman’s radio.
He comes to the shoreline to park
and eat midnight sandwiches, his headlights
fanning out across the harbor.
And I hold you close, apple of my closed eye,
red dance of my opened fist.
A leading philosopher explores the ethics and psychology of flourishing during times of personal and collective crisis.
Imagine the end of the world. Now think about the end—the purpose—of life. They’re different exercises, but in Jonathan Lear’s profound reflection on mourning and meaning, these two kinds of thinking are also connected: related ways of exploring some of our deepest questions about individual and collective values and the enigmatic nature of the good.
Lear is one of the most distinctive intellectual voices in America, a philosopher and psychoanalyst who draws from ancient and modern thought, personal history, and everyday experience to help us think about how we can flourish, or fail to, in a world of flux and finitude that we only weakly control. His range is on full display in Imagining the End as he explores seemingly disparate concerns to challenge how we respond to loss, crisis, and hope.
He considers our bewilderment in the face of planetary catastrophe. He examines the role of the humanities in expanding our imaginative and emotional repertoire. He asks how we might live with the realization that cultures, to which we traditionally turn for solace, are themselves vulnerable. He explores how mourning can help us thrive, the role of moral exemplars in shaping our sense of the good, and the place of gratitude in human life. Along the way, he touches on figures as diverse as Aristotle, Abraham Lincoln, Sigmund Freud, and the British royals Harry and Meghan.
Written with Lear’s characteristic elegance, philosophical depth, and psychological perceptiveness, Imagining the End is a powerful meditation on persistence in an age of turbulence and anxiety.
Instead of Dying
Lauren Haldeman University Press of Colorado, 2017 Library of Congress PS3608.A54565A6 2017 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Invoking spiders and senators, physicists and aliens, Lauren Haldeman’s second book, Instead of Dying, decodes the world of death with a powerful mix of humor, epiphany, and agonizing grief. In the spirit of Calvino’s Invisible Cities, these poems compulsively imagine alternate realities for a lost sibling (“Instead of dying, they inject you with sunlight & you live” or “Instead of dying, you join a dog-sledding team in Quebec”), relentlessly recording the unlived possibilities that blossom from the purgative magical thinking of mourning. Whether she is channeling Google Maps Street View to visit a scene of murder (“Because / a picture of this place is / also a picture of you”) or investigating the origins of consciousness (“Yes, alien / life-forms exist / they are your thoughts”), Haldeman wrenches verse into new sublime forms, attempting to both translate the human experience as well as encrypt it, inviting readers into realms where we hover, plunge, rise again, and ascend.
“What does it mean to be lonely?” Thomas Dumm asks. His inquiry, documented in this book, takes us beyond social circumstances and into the deeper forces that shape our very existence as modern individuals. The modern individual, Dumm suggests, is fundamentally a lonely self. Through reflections on philosophy, political theory, literature, and tragic drama, he proceeds to illuminate a hidden dimension of the human condition. His book shows how loneliness shapes the contemporary division between public and private, our inability to live with each other honestly and in comity, the estranged forms that our intimate relationships assume, and the weakness of our common bonds.
A reading of the relationship between Cordelia and her father in Shakespeare’s King Lear points to the most basic dynamic of modern loneliness—how it is a response to the problem of the “missing mother.” Dumm goes on to explore the most important dimensions of lonely experience—Being, Having, Loving, and Grieving. As the book unfolds, he juxtaposes new interpretations of iconic cultural texts—Moby-Dick, Death of a Salesman, the film Paris, Texas, Emerson’s “Experience,” to name a few—with his own experiences of loneliness, as a son, as a father, and as a grieving husband and widower.
Written with deceptive simplicity, Loneliness as a Way of Life is something rare—an intellectual study that is passionately personal. It challenges us, not to overcome our loneliness, but to learn how to re-inhabit it in a better way. To fail to do so, this book reveals, will only intensify the power that it holds over us.
Love’s Long Line
Sophfronia Scott The Ohio State University Press, 2018 Library of Congress PS3619.C684Z46 2018 | Dewey Decimal 814.6
Sophfronia Scott turns an unflinching eye on her life to deliver a poignant collection of essays ruminating on faith, motherhood, race, and the search for meaningful connection in an increasingly disconnected world.
In Love’s Long Line, Scott contemplates what her son taught her about grief after the shootings at his school, Sandy Hook Elementary; how a walk with Lena Horne became a remembrance of love for Scott’s illiterate and difficult steelworker father; the unexpected heartache of being a substitute school bus driver; and the satisfying fantasy of paying off a mortgage. Scott’s road is also a spiritual journey ignited by an exploration of her first name, the wonder of her physical being, and coming to understand why her soul must dance like Saturday Night Fever’s Tony Manero.
Inspired by Annie Dillard’s observation in Holy the Firm that we all “reel out love’s long line alone . . . like a live wire loosed in space to longing and grief everlasting,” Scott’s essays acknowledge the loneliness, longing, and grief exacted by a fearless engagement with the everyday world. But she shows that by holding the line, there is an abundance of joy and forgiveness and grace to be had as well.
Lucchesi and The Whale
Frank Lentricchia Duke University Press, 2001 Library of Congress PS3562.E4937L83 2001 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Lucchesi and The Whale is an unusual work of fiction by noted author and critic Frank Lentricchia. Its central character, Thomas Lucchesi Jr., is a college professor in the American heartland whose obsessions and compulsions include traveling to visit friends in their last moments of life—because grief alone inspires him to write—and searching for secret meaning in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. Himself a writer of “stories full of violence in a poetic style,” Lucchesi tells his students that he teaches “only because [his] fiction is commercially untouchable” and to “never forget that.” Austerely isolated, anxiety-ridden, and relentlessly self-involved, Lucchesi nonetheless cannot completely squelch his eagerness for love. Having become “a mad Ahab of reading,” who is driven to dissect the “artificial body of Melville’s behemothian book” to grasp its truth, Lucchesi allows his thoughts to wander and loop from theory to dream to reality to questionable memory. But his black humor-tinged musings are often as profoundly moving as they are intellectual, such as the section in which he ponders the life and philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein in relation to the significance of a name—and then attempts to share these thoughts with a sexy, middle-aged flight attendant—or another in which he describes a chance meeting with a similarly-named mafia don. Despite apparent spiritual emptiness, Lucchesi in the end does find “a secret meaning” to Moby-Dick. And Lentricchia’s creations—both Lucchesi and The Whale and its main character—reveal this meaning through a series of ingeniously self-reflective metaphors, in much the way that Melville himself did in and through Moby-Dick. Vivid, humorous, and of unparalleled originality, this new work from Frank Lentricchia will inspire and console all who love and ponder both great literature and those who would write it.
Kristin Keane Omnidawn, 2021 Library of Congress PS3611.E164L86 2021 | Dewey Decimal 813.6
Agnes has been drifting away from herself. People look through her, her husband doesn’t understand her, and lately, she’s begun losing the sensations in her body. When a tube of shoplifted lipstick awakens her back to life, an impulse for stealing emerges that leads her to a court-ordered service at a camp for grieving children. While initially hoping only that the time there will help her give up stealing, Agnes soon learns that she can use objects to connect grieving children with the spirits of their parents. She must navigate the choice between using her compulsion for her own pleasure and helping the bereaved. Luminaries is about the things we take and about the things that are taken from us. It asks what it means to exist in lives filled with loss, to reach for the things we hope will restore us, and the risks we’re willing to take to ward off yearning—both in our material lives and social lives.
Luminaries is the winner of the Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Novelette/Chapbook Prize, selected by Kellie Wells.
In this striking debut volume, Lucas Farrell offers a lyrical and illuminating field guide to the flora and fauna of "worlds just out of reach." With the precision and detail of an Audubon sketch, he turns his naturalist's eye to the vast landscape of human emotion—all the while affirming "how real this world we live in / must be to live in."
Journeying ever outward, from the achingly ordinary to the mysterious "land where there is no land," the narrator of this collection, equal parts pastoralist and surrealist, explores the vivid in-betweens—between love and loss, hilarity and despair, wild and domestic, real and imagined. Hungry, expressive, and original, these poems glean light from even the darkest of fields.From "Further Along Now"Further along the curves of gesture, the delicateapostrophe, in the tongues of muted suns, we'll findourselves in a clearing, in a meadow of ancient grass,picking apart what has long been picked apart. Furtheralong, the compliments, the tweezers and logic, thelaboratory of hard hats and felt pens and hard headsand clipboards hanging from sky's bloody fender, birddroppings steaming calligraphic so long as the cloudsbecome clouds become clouds and amazed we see insuch preventable warfare our own substancesunchanging. Fountains of ash too diffuse to interpret,too complex to diagnose, I quote the many woods ofgrief, too far alone, too deep.
Heather Bell Adams West Virginia University Press, 2017 Library of Congress PS3601.D3747M37 2017 | Dewey Decimal 813.6
After Sadie’s son, Mark, is gone, she doesn’t have much use for other people, including her husband. The last person she wants to see is Tinley Greene, who shows up claiming she’s pregnant with Mark’s baby.
Sadie knows Tinley must be lying because Mark was engaged and never would have betrayed his fiancée. So she refuses to help, and she doesn’t breathe a word about it to anybody. But in a small, southern town like Garnet, nothing stays secret for long.
Once Sadie starts piecing together what happened to Mark, she discovers she was wrong about Tinley. And when her husband is rushed to the hospital, Sadie must hurry to undo her mistake before he runs out of time to meet their grandchild.
Missing Persons: A Memoir
Gayle Greene University of Nevada Press, 2017 Library of Congress PS29.G74A3 2017 | Dewey Decimal 818.603
Missing Persons is a memoir about dealing with death in a culture that gives no help. As the last of her family, Greene’s losses are stark, first her aunt, then her mother, in quick succession. She is as ill-equipped for the challenges of caring for a dying person at home as she is for the other losses, long repressed, that rise to confront her at this time: the suicide of her younger brother, the death of her father. As the professional identity on which she’s based her selfhood comes to feel brittle and trivial, she is catapulted into questions of “who am I?” and “what have I done with my life?”
The memoir is structured as an account of her mother's and aunt’s final days and the year that follows, a year in which she reconstructs her life. This is a powerful story about family, what it means to have one, to lose one, never to have made one, and what, if anything, might take its place. It’s the story of a vexed mother-daughter relationship that mellows with age. It is also a search for home, as the very landscape shifts around her and the vast orchards are dug up and paved over for tract housing, strip malls, freeways, and the Santa Clara Valley, once known as the Valley of Heart’s Delight, is transformed to “Silicon.”
Enormous ecological losses and profound planetary transformations mean that ours is a time to grieve beyond the human. Yet, Joshua Trey Barnett argues in this eloquent and urgent book, our capacity to grieve for more-than-human others is neither natural nor inevitable. Weaving together personal narratives, theoretical meditations, and insightful readings of cultural artifacts, he suggests that ecological grief is best understood as a rhetorical achievement. As a collection of worldmaking practices, rhetoric makes things matter, bestows value, directs attention, generates knowledge, and foments feelings. By dwelling on three rhetorical practices—naming, archiving, and making visible—Barnett shows how they prepare us to grieve past, present, and future ecological losses. Simultaneously diagnostic and prescriptive, this book reveals rhetorical practices that set our ecological grief into motion and illuminates pathways to more connected, caring earthly coexistence.
My Radio Radio
Jessie van Eerden West Virginia University Press, 2016 Library of Congress PS3622.A585486M9 2015 | Dewey Decimal 813.6
The members of Dunlap Fellowship of All Things in Common share everything from their meager incomes to the only functioning toilet in the community house— everything, that is, except secrets. When Omi Ruth Wincott, the youngest member of the disintegrating common-purse community in this small Indiana town, loses her only brother, Woodrun, she withdraws from everyone and fixates on a secret desire: She wishes only for an extravagant head- stone to mark Woodrun’s grave, an expense that the strict, parsimonious community can’t—or won’t—pay for. In her loneliness, Omi Ruth’s only ties to the world remain her National Geographic magazines and a new resident in the house, Northrop, an old man caught between living and dying, maintained in a vegetative state by hospice care.
Observing everything with the keen eye of a girl with a photographic memory, Omi Ruth finds herself learning to grieve in the company of unlikely strangers. With the help of a homeless and pregnant Tracie Casteel, a rebellious Amish boy named Spencer Frye, and the smooth-talking Vaughn Buey who works third shift at Dunlap’s RV plant, Omi Ruth discovers that there are two things of which there is no shortage in the world’s common purse—love and loss.
Kate Bolton Bonnici University Press of Colorado, 2020 Library of Congress PS3602.O657426N54 2020 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
In Night Burial, Kate Bolton Bonnici mourns her mother’s death from ovarian cancer by tracing the composition, decomposition, and recomposition of the maternal body. Opening with an epigraph from Julia Kristeva’s Stabat Mater, which recognizes the “abyss that opens up between the body and what had been its inside,” Night Burial moves from breastfeeding to laying sod on a grave, weaving together Alabama pine forests, fairy tales, philosophy, classical and Renaissance literatures, church practices, and hospice care. Through centuries-old and newly imagined poetic forms, Night Burial crafts a haunting litany for the dead. These poems ask the essential questions of grief, intertwined with family and place: how do we address the absent beloved and might the poem become its own conjuring whereby the I can once again speak to the you?
The lingering aftereffects of the Vietnam War resonate to this day throughout American society: in foreign policy, in attitudes about the military and war generally, and in the contemporary lives of members of the so-called baby boom generation who came of age during the 1960s and early 1970s. While the best-known personal accounts of the war tend to center on the experience of combat, Maureen Ryan's The Other Side of Grief examines the often overlooked narratives—novels, short stories, memoirs, and films—that document the war's impact on the home front.
In analyzing the accounts of Vietnam veterans, women as well as men, Ryan focuses on the process of readjustment, on how the war continued to insinuate itself into their lives, their families, and their communities long after they returned home. She looks at the writings of women whose husbands, lovers, brothers, and sons served in Vietnam and whose own lives were transformed as a result. She also appraises the experiences of the POWs who came to be embraced as the war's only heroes; the ordeal of Vietnamese refugees who fled their "American War" to new lives in the United States; and the influential movement created by those who committed themselves to protesting the war.
The end result of Ryan's investigations is a cogent synthesis of the vast narrative literature generated by the Vietnam War and its aftermath. Together those stories powerfully demonstrate how deeply the legacies of the war penetrated American culture and continue to reverberate still.
An award-winning exploration of the presence of the dead in the lives of the living
A common remedy after suffering the loss of a loved one is to progress through the “stages of grief,” with “acceptance” as the final stage in the process. But is it necessary to leave death behind, to stop dwelling on the dead, to get over the pain? Vinciane Despret thinks not. In her fascinating, elegantly translated book, this influential thinker argues that, in practice, people in all cultures continue to enjoy a lively, inventive, positive relationship with their dead.
Through her unique storytelling woven from ethnographic sources and her own family history, Despret assembles accounts of those who have found ways to live their daily lives with their dead. She rejects the idea that one must either subscribe to “complete mourning” (in a sense, to get rid of the dead) or else fall into fantasy and superstition. She explores instead how the dead still play an active, tangible role through those who are living, who might assume their place in a family or in society; continue their labor or art; or thrive from a shared inheritance or an organ donation. This is supported by dreams and voices, novels, television and popular culture, the work of clairvoyants, and the everyday stories and activities of the living. For decades now, in the West, the dead have been discreet and invisible. Today, especially as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Despret suggests that perhaps we will be willing to engage with the dead in ways that bring us happiness despite our loss.
Despret’s unique method of inquiry makes her book both entertaining and instructive. Our Grateful Dead offers a new, pragmatic approach to social and cultural research and may indeed provide compassionate therapy for those of us coping with death.
What leads us to respond politically to the deaths of some citizens and not others? This is one of the critical questions Heather Pool asks in Political Mourning. Born out of her personal experiences with the trauma of 9/11, Pool’s astute book looks at how death becomes political, and how it can mobilize everyday citizens to argue for political change.
Pool examines four tragedies in American history—the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the lynching of Emmett Till, the September 11 attacks, and the Black Lives Matter movement—that offered opportunities to tilt toward justice and democratic inclusion. Some of these opportunities were taken, some were not. However, these watershed moments show, historically, how political identity and political responsibility intersect and how racial identity shapes who is mourned. Political Mourning helps explain why Americans recognize the names of Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland; activists took those cases public while many similar victims have been ignored by the news media.
Concluding with an afterword on the coronavirus, Pool emphasizes the importance of collective responsibility for justice and why we ought to respond to tragedy in ways that are more politically inclusive.
In Postcolonial Grief Jinah Kim explores the relationship of mourning to transpacific subjectivities, aesthetics, and decolonial politics since World War II. Kim argues that Asian diasporic subjectivity exists in relation to afterlives because the deaths of those killed by U.S. imperialism and militarism in the Pacific remain unresolved and unaddressed. Kim shows how primarily U.S.-based Korean and Japanese diasporic writers, artists, and filmmakers negotiate the necropolitics of Asia and how their creative refusal to heal from imperial violence may generate transformative antiracist and decolonial politics. She contests prevalent interpretations of melancholia by engaging with Frantz Fanon's and Hisaye Yamamoto's decolonial writings; uncovering the noir genre's relationship to the U.S. war in Korea; discussing the emergence of silenced colonial histories during the 1992 Los Angeles riots; and analyzing the 1996 hostage takeover of the Japanese ambassador's home in Peru. Kim highlights how the aesthetic and creative work of the Japanese and Korean diasporas offers new insights into twenty-first-century concerns surrounding the state's erasure of military violence and colonialism and the difficult work of remembering histories of war across the transpacific.
Winner of the 2012 Autumn House Press Poetry Contest, selected by Stephen Dunn, Chelsea Rathburn's second collection continues to amaze with her ability to direct a clear poet's gaze on every aspect of life. Working in both free-verse and form, this book solidfies Rathburn as an essential voice for contemporary poetry.
Each November, Americans celebrate Veterans Day, a holiday that honors our armed services and that marks the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. Veterans Day roughly coincides with Remembrance Day in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, where millions of people wear poppies—a flower that bloomed across the battlefields of Flanders and became emblematic of the war—and observe a period of silence at war memorials. For many countries around the world, this day is meant to thank those who give their lives to defend liberty and freedom, but as Ted Harrison reveals in Remembrance Today, the day and the poppies people wear were originally meant as a dedication to the intention that war must never happen again.
Raising questions that are too often ignored, Harrison explores what it means to be heroic and what glory means in the context of military service. Most important, he asks what the purpose of Remembrance is outside honoring the fallen and comforting those who mourn their loss. He contends that if the prime function of holidays like Remembrance Day and Veterans Day is not to serve as a warning against war and a reminder to pursue peaceful solutions, then these days are futile. An examination of how our ideas of heroism, duty, and grief have lost their way, Remembrance Today is a powerful argument to focus again on the meaning behind this poignant holiday.
This honest and haunting collection of poems follows the loss of the poet’s only son to heroin addiction. St. Germain takes us through the stages of her grief and offers no false promises or simple answers. These narrative-driven poems are a compelling and compassionate look into addiction and the effect it has on a family.
A translation of Heinrich Heine's love poems. This bilingual edition includes an introduction by Heine scholar Jeffrey L. Sammons. The author aims to capture the meaning of the original, but preserve the poems' rhyme schemes as well as their moods.
Starting with Goodbye begins with loss and ends with love, as a midlife daughter rediscovers her enigmatic father after his death. Lisa has little time for grief, but when her dead dad drops in for “conversations,” his absent presence invites Lisa to examine why the parent she had turned away from in life now holds her spellbound.
Lisa reconsiders the affluent upbringing he financed (filled with horses, lavish vacations, bulging closets), and the emotional distance that grew when he retired to Las Vegas and she remained in New Jersey where she and her husband earn moderate incomes. She also confronts death rituals, navigates new family dynamics, while living both in memory and the unfolding moment.
In this brutally honest yet compelling portrayal and tribute, Lisa searches for meaning, reconciling the Italian-American father—self-made textile manufacturer who liked newspapers, smoking, Las Vegas craps tables, and solitude—with the complex man she discovers influenced everything, from career choice to spouse.
By forging a new father-daughter “relationship,” grief is transformed to hopeful life-affirming redemption. In poignant, often lyrical prose, this powerful, honest book proves that when we dare to love the parent who challenged us most, it’s never too late.
In the summer of 2000, David Hlavsa and his wife Lisa Holtby embarked on a pilgrimage. After trying for three years to conceive a child and suffering through the monthly cycle of hope and disappointment, they decided to walk the Camino de Santiago, a joint enterprise—and an act of faith—they hoped would strengthen their marriage and prepare them for parenthood.
Though walking more than 400 miles across the north of Spain turned out to be more difficult than they had anticipated, after a series of misadventures, including a brief stay in a Spanish hospital, they arrived in Santiago. Shortly after their return to Seattle, Lisa became pregnant, and the hardships of the Camino were no comparison to what followed: the stillbirth of their first son and Lisa’s harrowing second pregnancy.
Walking Distance is a moving and disarmingly funny book, a good story with a happy ending—the safe arrival of David and Lisa’s second son, Benjamin. David and Lisa get more than they bargained for, but they also get exactly what they wanted: a child, a solid marriage, and a richer life.
Allison Benis White Four Way Books, 2020 Library of Congress PS3602.E66346A6 2020 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
“Because it is easier to miss a stranger / with your mother’s name,” Allison Benis White instead writes about five women named Wendy as a way into the complex grief that still lingers after the death of a sixth Wendy, the author’s long-absent mother. A series of epistolary poems addressed to Wendy O. Williams becomes an occasion for the speaker to eulogize as well as reflect on the singer’s life and eventual suicide: “What kind of love is death, I’m asking?” In the section devoted to Wendy Torrance, the fictional wife from The Shining who was bludgeoned by her husband, the speaker muses on the inadequacy of language to resolve or even contain grief in the wake of trauma: “A book is a coffin. Hoarsely. A white sheet draped over the cage of being.” Ultimately, The Wendys is a book of silences and space in which tenderness and violence exist in exquisite tension. “If to speak is to die,” White writes in “Ignis Fatuus,” “I will whisper.”
Nearly 1,600 Americans who took part in the Vietnam War are still missing and presumed dead. Sarah Wagner tells the stories of those who mourn and continue to search for them. Today’s forensic science can identify remains from mere traces, raising expectations for repatriation and forcing a new reckoning with the toll of America’s most fraught war.
Becoming a widow is one of the most traumatic life events that a woman can experience. Yet, as this remarkable new collection reveals, each woman responds to that trauma differently. Here, forty-three widows tell their stories, in their own words.
Some were widowed young, while others were married for decades. Some cared for their late partners through long terminal illnesses, while others lost their partners suddenly. Some had male partners, while others had female partners. Yet each of these women faced the same basic dilemma: how to go on living when a part of you is gone.
Widows’ Words is arranged chronologically, starting with stories of women preparing for their partners’ deaths, followed by the experiences of recent widows still reeling from their fresh loss, and culminating in the accounts of women who lost their partners many years ago but still experience waves of grief. Their accounts deal honestly with feelings of pain, sorrow, and despair, and yet there are also powerful expressions of strength, hope, and even joy. Whether you are a widow yourself or have simply experienced loss, you will be sure to find something moving and profound in these diverse tales of mourning, remembrance, and resilience.
What is the role of love in opening and sustaining the temporal worlds we inhabit? One of the leading scholars in philosophy and the history of religious thought, Thomas A. Carlson here traces this question through Christian theology, twentieth-century phenomenological and deconstructive philosophy, and nineteenth-century individualism. Revising Augustine’s insight that when we love a place, we dwell there in the heart, Carlson also pointedly resists lines of thought that seek to transcend loss and its grief by loving all things within the realm of the eternal. Through masterful readings of Heidegger, Derrida, Marion, Nancy, Emerson, and Nietzsche, Carlson shows that the fragility and sorrow of mortal existence in its transience do not, in fact, contradict love, but instead empower love to create a world.
Worthy: A Memoir
Denice Turner University of Nevada Press, 2015 Library of Congress BF575.D35T87 2015 | Dewey Decimal 818.603
Worthy is a memoir of loss and the search for acceptance. Raised in a Mormon household, Denice Turner strives to find her place in the Church, longing to be worthy of her mother’s love. When her mother dies in a suspicious house fire, Turner is forced to face the problems with the stories she inherited. Contemplating the price of worthiness, Turner grapples with the mystery of her mother’s death, seeking to understand her mother’s battle with chronic pain.
The story unfolds as Turner confronts a history that includes a Greek grandfather whose up-from-the-bootstraps legacy refuses to die, the ghosts of two suicidal uncles, and a Mormon shrink who claims to see her dead relatives. In the end, this is a memoir not just about loss, but about all of the fragile human bonds that are broken in pursuit of perfection.
Wry and extraordinarily candid, Worthy will appeal to readers interested in the dynamics of family heritage, Mormon doctrine, and the subtle corrosive costs of shame.