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How to Not Be Afraid of Everything

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Explores the vulnerable ways we articulate and reckon with fear: fear of intergenerational trauma and the silent, hidden histories of families. What does it mean to grow up in a take-out restaurant, surrounded by food, just a generation after the Great Leap Forward famine in 1958-62? Full of elegy and resilient joy, these poems speak across generations of survival. 2019 Al Explores the vulnerable ways we articulate and reckon with fear: fear of intergenerational trauma and the silent, hidden histories of families. What does it mean to grow up in a take-out restaurant, surrounded by food, just a generation after the Great Leap Forward famine in 1958-62? Full of elegy and resilient joy, these poems speak across generations of survival. 2019 Alice James Books Award Editor’s Choice


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Explores the vulnerable ways we articulate and reckon with fear: fear of intergenerational trauma and the silent, hidden histories of families. What does it mean to grow up in a take-out restaurant, surrounded by food, just a generation after the Great Leap Forward famine in 1958-62? Full of elegy and resilient joy, these poems speak across generations of survival. 2019 Al Explores the vulnerable ways we articulate and reckon with fear: fear of intergenerational trauma and the silent, hidden histories of families. What does it mean to grow up in a take-out restaurant, surrounded by food, just a generation after the Great Leap Forward famine in 1958-62? Full of elegy and resilient joy, these poems speak across generations of survival. 2019 Alice James Books Award Editor’s Choice

44 review for How to Not Be Afraid of Everything

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Wong is an assistant professor of creative writing at Western Washington University. The centerpiece of her second collection is “When You Died,” a 20-page epic about her grandparents’ experience during China’s “Great Leap Forward,” a 1950s–60s Maoist campaign of agricultural reform that led to severe famine. Her grandfather survived it and her mother was born at the tail end of it. Wong was born to immigrant parents in New Jersey and the atmosphere and imagery she uses to describe her living si Wong is an assistant professor of creative writing at Western Washington University. The centerpiece of her second collection is “When You Died,” a 20-page epic about her grandparents’ experience during China’s “Great Leap Forward,” a 1950s–60s Maoist campaign of agricultural reform that led to severe famine. Her grandfather survived it and her mother was born at the tail end of it. Wong was born to immigrant parents in New Jersey and the atmosphere and imagery she uses to describe her living situation there reminded me of Qian Julie Wang’s in her memoir Beautiful Country. Foodstuffs provide the figurative palette, with decay never far behind. I most enjoyed the multi-part poem “The Frontier” (“The frontier arranges itself / around me like a moat. / The frontier drops fruit / upon my head. I break open, / hot cantaloupe in winter. / I wobble around, spilling fruit / everywhere. All day, fruit flies / pay their respects.”) and “The Cactus,” about her spiky self-preservation instincts. This is the theme of the title poem as well: How to not punch everyone in the face. How to not protect everyone’s eyes from my own punch. I have been practicing my punch for years, loosening my limbs. My jaw unhinged creates a felony I refuse to go to court for. There are many unusual metaphors and word choices, and a lot of the alliteration I love. Opening poem “Mad” is playfully set up like a Mad Libs game with all the key words as blanks. But at the same time, there are loads of prose poems – never my favourite thing to come across in a collection – and some long ones that I kept getting lost in. Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

    This is a poetry collection that revolves around the authors life and family. As it is said in the opening, they dedicate the poems to their family members who are missing and were perished during the Great Leap Forward. You can feel the pain that has gone on in their family, and the things that have happened in the author's personal life. I loved the way some of the poems were written, and the words that were used to describe certain situations. I just think it got a little harder to read at th This is a poetry collection that revolves around the authors life and family. As it is said in the opening, they dedicate the poems to their family members who are missing and were perished during the Great Leap Forward. You can feel the pain that has gone on in their family, and the things that have happened in the author's personal life. I loved the way some of the poems were written, and the words that were used to describe certain situations. I just think it got a little harder to read at the end, with the no breaks in the poems. This could also be something that is unfinished? I hate rating poetry, because I feel like it is not mine to rate. It is not my feelings, or what I have been through. I will give it a 3, just for my own personal liking. Please give this collection a read, and continue supporting poets. "The dull prongs of a fork still count as a weapon." Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for the ARC copy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    Definitely a lot of anger in this collection of poems

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    I feel a lot of rage in these poems. And guilt at times, too. And a reaching, toward times, places, people, memories. And how the words are so often interrupted by punctuation—dash, colon, period—or caesura or stanza or line, but also how often the interruption is simultaneously a bridge. And how much in the body these poems are. It’s really quite something.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    In Jane Wong’s second full length collection of poetry, she circles themes of family and of food. Confronting her family’s past in China during the Great Leap Forward and growing up as a “restaurant baby” in New Jersey, she links food, ghosts, memory, and belonging. I was always going to pick up this collection, but after reading several interviews (links in comments and also clickable in stories) realized that this would work as a “food memoir” for the Read Harder challenge. There are food them In Jane Wong’s second full length collection of poetry, she circles themes of family and of food. Confronting her family’s past in China during the Great Leap Forward and growing up as a “restaurant baby” in New Jersey, she links food, ghosts, memory, and belonging. I was always going to pick up this collection, but after reading several interviews (links in comments and also clickable in stories) realized that this would work as a “food memoir” for the Read Harder challenge. There are food themes throughout, but the strongest is in the poem “When You Died” which starts out with: “I went to the library to find you/I stain a book on Maoist-era politics/With the tomato soup I had microwaved earlier.” The author researching her family history during the Great Leap Forward epidemic of starvation while spilling soup on the book juxtaposes the American food culture of plenty with the dearth of food from mid-century China. I will probably always struggle with reviewing poetry, especially poetry like this, written on such a personal level, with the poet exposing the rawness of her own existence. Wong’s style varies from poem to poem, with words and sounds evoking feeling and making you feel present in the poetry with her ghosts. It’s strong and loud, and sometimes softer and quieter. It’s a collection I’ll revisit, and one you should pick up, too.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Wuttipol

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

  8. 5 out of 5

    Shishene

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alisan

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  11. 5 out of 5

    Steve

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

  14. 4 out of 5

    Leanna

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ally Ang

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Poli

  17. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ananya Garg

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mal N

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kayla Marie Gulbranson

  21. 4 out of 5

    tegan

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cas

  23. 5 out of 5

    Verity

  24. 5 out of 5

    Evelyn

  25. 4 out of 5

    afewsocks

  26. 4 out of 5

    Olivia

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tate Williams

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Head

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kristina

  30. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Vellenga

  31. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Arca

  32. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  33. 5 out of 5

    Trina Y

  34. 4 out of 5

    Ash

  35. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  36. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

  37. 5 out of 5

    Tori Underwood

  38. 4 out of 5

    Laura Benton

  39. 4 out of 5

    Melon109

  40. 5 out of 5

    Nicolette

  41. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  42. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay Stenico

  43. 4 out of 5

    Cassiopeia

  44. 4 out of 5

    Dallas Klein

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