Review: The Body Papers

The Body Papers The Body Papers by Grace Talusan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Talusan's memoir interweaves the various threads of her life into a tapestry that is magisterial to see in its fullness and both powerful and painful to watch in its development. She shares with readers the many challenges, emotions, and scars she has experienced through her life negotiating her racial, ethnic, social, and gender identities. From leaving her home in the Philipines to growing up in a white suburban Boston enclave to surviving sexual abuse from a family member to grappling with the forboding odds of various cancers to navigating familial and spousal relationships through all these issues, Talusan tackles everything with a directness, balanced by sincerity and insight garnered by much reflection. There are so many things to appreciate about her writing from the elegant but accessible prose to the ways in which each chapter unravels with just the right amount of pacing and absent of overt explanations of the lessons being communicated. For me, I loved the synergy between the title "The Body Papers" and how each chapter taps into that term in some interesting way. Talusan ties that theme together when she discusses her transition from resident to citizen and how papers determine what kind of body she is (i.e. a legal or illegal one). She revisits waiting for the (paper) results to genes testing to determine how big of a threat various cancers will be in her life. She shares recipes have guided her in creating foods that she finds solace in as they both remind her of memories and also, spark her creative side. Throughout it all, Talusan's focus is on her body and her experiences, navigating what it has meant for her to survive and thrive; in this way, it is an empowering reflection how the strength that many of us often don't realize we have until we are truly tested.

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