The co-op bookstore for avid readers
Book Cover for: Obit, Victoria Chang

Obit

Victoria Chang

Reader Score

86%

86% of readers

recommend this book

Critic Reviews

Good

Based on 12 reviews on

BookMarks logo
Finalist:National Book Critics Circle Award -Poetry (2020)
Longlist:National Book Award -Poetry (2020)
After her mother's death, Chang wrote deep into grief by composing "obits"-from her mother's blue dress to language itself.

Book Details

  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
  • Publish Date: Apr 7th, 2020
  • Pages: 120
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 8.90in - 5.50in - 0.40in - 0.40lb
  • EAN: 9781556595745
  • Categories: Subjects & Themes - Death, Grief, LossAmerican - Asian American & Pacific IslanderSubjects & Themes - Family

About the Author

Born in Detroit, Michigan to Taiwanese immigrants, Victoria Chang was educated at the University of Michigan, Harvard University, and Stanford Business School and holds an MFA in poetry from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. She is the author of five books of poetry, including Circle; Salvinia Molesta; and The Boss, which received a PEN Center USA Literary Award as well as a California Book Award. Her children's picture book, Is Mommy? was named a New York Times Notable Book. She lives in Southern California with her family and serves as the Program Chair of Antioch's Low-Residency MFA Program.

Critics’ reviews

Praise for this book

"Chang's new collection explores her father's illness and her mother's death, treating mortality as a constantly shifting enigma. A serene acceptance of grief emerges from these poems."--The New York Times, "100 Notable Books of 2020"


"In [Obit], mortality is not a before and after state, but rather a constantly shifting enigma..."--The New York Times Book Review


"Exceptional . . . Chang's poems expand and contract to create surprising geometries of language, vividly capturing the grief they explore."--Publishers Weekly, starred review


"Exquisite and excruciating and so true and so real"--NPR's "All Things Considered"


"Chang's sharp crystallizations of the pain and disorientation of death, and the way it reverberates through life, bring us to the raw heart of grief without the overblown language of classical elegy. These are poems that reproduce the logic and feeling of loss--a gift for anyone who has struggled to find words to express grief."--NPR


"Chang has created a unique poetic construct... The feeling of hope is a theme throughout this solid collection, in variations Chang evokes with grace: 'Hope / is the wildest bird, the one that flies / so fast it will either disappear or burst / into flames.' Chang's poetry fine tunes that conflagration with acuity." --Booklist


"In Chang's telling, grief shoots off in all directions, killing off dozens of other things: appetite, blame, the deceased's old clothes. Chang sets out to catalogue them all, and does so with rangy metaphysical imagination and terse precision."--Times Literary Supplement


"Chang is consistently a poet who resurrects mediums, her work living within surprising spaces and forms, and both exposing and surpassing the possibilities for those structures... Chang has the rare poetic talent to follow the edges of dark comedy to find sentiment rather than irony." --The Millions


"Here we have unmitigated heartbreak--but heartbreak mercifully free of the usual 'death etiquette': platitudes of 'after-lives' or 'better offs.' Thus, Victoria Chang has created something powerful and unconventional. These poems are zinger curveballs, and often come from the graveyard's left field." --Los Angeles Review of Books


"These obits are fearless. They are also specific and intimate. . . . The emotional power of Chang's Obit comes from the grace and honesty with which she turns this familiar form inside out to show us the private side of family, the knotting together of generations, the bewilderment of grief."--Ploughshares


"As a lyrical case study of a person coming to accept the hard terms of such love, Obit offers both instruction and solace."--Porter House Review


"Overall, readers who have lost parents to illness or death, have looked back on aspects of their lives to find them not what they seemed to be, will find their emotions here distilled in heartbreaking and quiet intensities." --International Examiner


"Obit cracks open the silence around death and grief at a time when we all need it most." --1508 at The University of Arizona Poetry Center


"Obit reckons with death by swimming inside it . . . grief is tended to and given space."--The Rumpus


"A long elegy for the poet's mother, Obit is the kind of poetry collection that creates a new genre. A reinvention of form? A symphony? A manifesto? All of the above and then some. It is heartbreaking and enthralling. It sings and instructs. It is a world all its own; one that changes ours." --Ilya Kaminsky, The Week


"I still have yet to capture the full breadth of Obit. I suspect that this is the closest I will come: this book contains ninety-six poems about grief and loss, and every one of them is good. Every single one of them."--The Rupture


"OBIT is intensely personal. It's also somehow universal. Reading Chang's grief on the page reflects the reader's grief back at them. In this way, there's comfort in sitting with another's grief. It's an unexpectedly healing collection."--Book Riot


"A meditative journey through grief over the loss of a parent. Sometimes humorous, often reflective, and always compelling, OBIT is an unflinching exploration of a grown child's love for their parents that somehow manages to be gentle. I read it not too long after I lost my dad, and it helped me sit with that loss and find some healing in a different way that other books had. Chang was already one of my favorite poets, but this collection is next level."--Book Riot


"a remarkable book for anyone dealing with grief (as we all are during the pandemic). "Obit" is as interested in consolation and acceptance as it is in the fearsome expression of the unbearable aspects of grief."--Bookworm


"What book could more accurately capture this year of grief than Victoria Chang's Obit? Chang reimagines the form of the newspaper obituary to express the way grief requires that we surrender everything to its erasures. One by one, the familiar things of the world vanish, and Chang writes their obits in prose poems of merciless beauty. Grieving, we die many times, an endless series of small deaths that sweep the world clean of everything that once seemed so solid."--Kenyon Review


"[Obit] marshals all the resources of poetry against the relentless emotional cascade that's associated with death--and, very much to its credit, and as a testament to its success, the book has arrived at a kind of momentary stalemate against that cascade."--Rick Barot

"In this book, Chang talks about how memory starts having a life of its own after a loved one dies. It takes us into the world of newspaper obituaries, reinvents it, and brings out the sociocultural impact of the dead on the living. How do you deal with the void created by the deaths of those who have completed our lives in the past? How do you keep existing and rebuild yourself from scratch when life feels like nothing but a series of losses?"--Book Riot

"Grief comes in many forms. For Victoria Chang, it's grieving the death of her mother, the loss of her father's speech after a stroke, and the person she used to be before these events happened. Obit is grief strung into words. A deeply emotional and personal collection of poetry with the universal theme of grieving."--Voice of London

"A sublime tribute to her mother who died and to grief itself. How does one deal with loss while trying to maintain some grace? Her delving into grief allowed me to dive deeper into mine."--Rabih Alameddine, Lit Hub

"I mentioned that sometimes a poet will create a form just for a collection. In this case, Chang shaped her poems to look like newspaper obituaries. Strangely and fittingly enough, they also have the shapes of headstones. I say fitting because this collection is about grief. It's heartbreaking and beautiful." --Book Riot

"A book shaped by grief, unforgettable in its stark lines and the way it encapsulates the death of one's parents. . . . The speaker's depth of love and pain is rendered so artfully, so precisely, so rightly. This is a handbook for loss like no other."--Independent Book Review


"Chang's new collection explores her father's illness and her mother's death, treating mortality as a constantly shifting enigma. A serene acceptance of grief emerges from these poems."-The New York Times, "100 Notable Books of 2020"


"In [Obit], mortality is not a before and after state, but rather a constantly shifting enigma..."--The New York Times Book Review


"Exceptional . . . Chang's poems expand and contract to create surprising geometries of language, vividly capturing the grief they explore."--Publishers Weekly, starred review


"Exquisite and excruciating and so true and so real"--NPR's "All Things Considered"


"Chang's sharp crystallizations of the pain and disorientation of death, and the way it reverberates through life, bring us to the raw heart of grief without the overblown language of classical elegy. These are poems that reproduce the logic and feeling of loss--a gift for anyone who has struggled to find words to express grief."--NPR


"Chang has created a unique poetic construct... The feeling of hope is a theme throughout this solid collection, in variations Chang evokes with grace: 'Hope / is the wildest bird, the one that flies / so fast it will either disappear or burst / into flames.' Chang's poetry fine tunes that conflagration with acuity." --Booklist


"In Chang's telling, grief shoots off in all directions, killing off dozens of other things: appetite, blame, the deceased's old clothes. Chang sets out to catalogue them all, and does so with rangy metaphysical imagination and terse precision."--Times Literary Supplement


"Chang is consistently a poet who resurrects mediums, her work living within surprising spaces and forms, and both exposing and surpassing the possibilities for those structures... Chang has the rare poetic talent to follow the edges of dark comedy to find sentiment rather than irony." --The Millions


"Here we have unmitigated heartbreak--but heartbreak mercifully free of the usual 'death etiquette': platitudes of 'after-lives' or 'better offs.' Thus, Victoria Chang has created something powerful and unconventional. These poems are zinger curveballs, and often come from the graveyard's left field." --Los Angeles Review of Books


"These obits are fearless. They are also specific and intimate. . . . The emotional power of Chang's Obit comes from the grace and honesty with which she turns this familiar form inside out to show us the private side of family, the knotting together of generations, the bewilderment of grief."--Ploughshares


"As a lyrical case study of a person coming to accept the hard terms of such love, Obit offers both instruction and solace."--Porter House Review


"Overall, readers who have lost parents to illness or death, have looked back on aspects of their lives to find them not what they seemed to be, will find their emotions here distilled in heartbreaking and quiet intensities." --International Examiner


"Obit cracks open the silence around death and grief at a time when we all need it most." --1508 at The University of Arizona Poetry Center


"Obit reckons with death by swimming inside it . . . grief is tended to and given space."--The Rumpus


"A long elegy for the poet's mother,