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.
The Back Bench
Margaret Hope Bacon QuakerPress, 2007 Library of Congress PZ7.B13448Bac 2007
Branka Arsić Harvard University Press, 2016 Library of Congress B931.T44A77 2015 | Dewey Decimal 818.309
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.
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.
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 Roadoffers 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.
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.
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.
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?" 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. This book challenges us, not to overcome our loneliness, but to learn how to re-inhabit it in a better way.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.