Winner of The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, The Body Papers bravely explores Grace Talusan's experiences with sexual abuse, depression, cancer, and life as a Filipino immigrant, supplemented with government documents, medical records, and family photos.
... finely-wrought and eloquent ... The book is visceral, bodily, and throbs with pain and trauma — sexual abuse by a family member, cancer, the phantom-limb ache of an outsider in a foreign land, and later, as an outsider in the homeland ... In less skilled hands, it all might be too much to bear, but Philippines-born Talusan brings us along in spare, specific, sense-rich detail, and reveals, along the way, the power to be found in giving a name to the unnamable, in giving language to subjects and experiences that defy it. Therein, Talusan shows, one can find the possibility of healing what’s happened in the past, as well as moving into the future with gratitude, wisdom, and strength.
Much of Grace Talusan’s memoir will be familiar to any reader of immigrant narratives. But what renders the book memorable is the author’s unstinting self-portrait. We see Talusan clearly in the present, warts and all, precisely through the stark, lucid representations of herself in the past ... Talusan chronicles that fraught passage from one world, one body, to another, marking with sensitivity how an American life can be both burden and benediction.
... doesn’t track a one-way march to triumph from adversity; Talusan’s essays loop in on themselves, as she retrieves old memories and finds unexpected points of connection ... Talusan describes such experiences with unadorned prose that conveys a startling specificity ... Talusan has the instincts of a storyteller, teasing out her narrative through images and allusion. She writes about her father with tenderness and empathy.