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Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir

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For readers of Helen Macdonald and Elizabeth Alexander, an intimate and haunting portrait of grief and the search for meaning from a singular new talent as told through the prism of three generations of her Chinese American family. Born two years after her parents' only son died just hours after his birth, Kat Chow became unusually fixated with death. She worried constantl For readers of Helen Macdonald and Elizabeth Alexander, an intimate and haunting portrait of grief and the search for meaning from a singular new talent as told through the prism of three generations of her Chinese American family. Born two years after her parents' only son died just hours after his birth, Kat Chow became unusually fixated with death. She worried constantly about her parents dying -- especially her mother. One morning, when Kat was nine, her mother, a vivacious and mischievous woman, casually made a morbid joke: When she eventually dies, she said laughing, she'd like to be stuffed and displayed in Kat's future apartment in order to always watch over her. Four years later when her mother dies unexpectedly from cancer, Kat, her two older sisters, and their father are plunged into a debilitating, lonely grief. With a distinct voice that is wry and heartfelt, Kat weaves together what is part ghost story and part excavation of her family's history of loss spanning three generations and their immigration from China and Hong Kong to America and Cuba. This redemptive coming-of-age story uncovers the uncanny parallels in Kat's lineage, including the strength of sisterhood and the complicated duty of looking after parents, even after death. Seeing Ghosts asks what it means to claim and tell your family's story: Is writing an exorcism or is it its own form of preservation? What do we owe to our families in our grief, and how does it shape us? In order to answer these questions and to understand her family's ghosts, Kat unearths their sorrow and challenges the power structures of race, class, and gender. The result is an extraordinary new contribution to the literature of grief and the American family, and a provocative and transformative meditation on who we become under the specter of loss.


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For readers of Helen Macdonald and Elizabeth Alexander, an intimate and haunting portrait of grief and the search for meaning from a singular new talent as told through the prism of three generations of her Chinese American family. Born two years after her parents' only son died just hours after his birth, Kat Chow became unusually fixated with death. She worried constantl For readers of Helen Macdonald and Elizabeth Alexander, an intimate and haunting portrait of grief and the search for meaning from a singular new talent as told through the prism of three generations of her Chinese American family. Born two years after her parents' only son died just hours after his birth, Kat Chow became unusually fixated with death. She worried constantly about her parents dying -- especially her mother. One morning, when Kat was nine, her mother, a vivacious and mischievous woman, casually made a morbid joke: When she eventually dies, she said laughing, she'd like to be stuffed and displayed in Kat's future apartment in order to always watch over her. Four years later when her mother dies unexpectedly from cancer, Kat, her two older sisters, and their father are plunged into a debilitating, lonely grief. With a distinct voice that is wry and heartfelt, Kat weaves together what is part ghost story and part excavation of her family's history of loss spanning three generations and their immigration from China and Hong Kong to America and Cuba. This redemptive coming-of-age story uncovers the uncanny parallels in Kat's lineage, including the strength of sisterhood and the complicated duty of looking after parents, even after death. Seeing Ghosts asks what it means to claim and tell your family's story: Is writing an exorcism or is it its own form of preservation? What do we owe to our families in our grief, and how does it shape us? In order to answer these questions and to understand her family's ghosts, Kat unearths their sorrow and challenges the power structures of race, class, and gender. The result is an extraordinary new contribution to the literature of grief and the American family, and a provocative and transformative meditation on who we become under the specter of loss.

30 review for Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kat Chow

    All the stars! The highest rating! A very good book, from a very, very biased reader.

  2. 5 out of 5

    elisa

    when i first started seeing ghosts, i was slightly worried by the unfortunate timing of its release, as it shares a number of unlucky similarities with the well-loved 2021 memoir crying in h mart: it's a life-spanning memoir written by an east asian woman as she struggles to find a foothold in the midst of her mother's cancer diagnosis (and subsequent death). but these are only surface-level similarities. by contrast, seeing ghosts is steeped in ambiguity. for most of the mother-specific memory when i first started seeing ghosts, i was slightly worried by the unfortunate timing of its release, as it shares a number of unlucky similarities with the well-loved 2021 memoir crying in h mart: it's a life-spanning memoir written by an east asian woman as she struggles to find a foothold in the midst of her mother's cancer diagnosis (and subsequent death). but these are only surface-level similarities. by contrast, seeing ghosts is steeped in ambiguity. for most of the mother-specific memory unraveling, details are unspecific, insubstantial hypotheticals—sometimes total creative conjecture about reanimated spirits—so that readers are constantly inundated with phrases like, "i imagine..." and, "i can picture..." while this threw me for a loop for the first 50 or so pages, i grew to really enjoy this little idiosyncrasy. i think it does well to subvert memoir conventions of accuracy and creative embellishment. it also feels true to chow's diasporic experience of her lineage. over the course of the memoir, she tries to fight the facts of her and her family's existence into submission by locating them. at times, this task is impossible. at times, it requires guesswork. at times, the task is impeded by language barriers, or cultural history, or the death of essential members of her family who she hadn't thought to seek out for questions like these until it was too late. this narrative ambiguity is sometimes set beside conversations chow transcribes verbatim, videos she's taken and written out, documents or research she's discovered to aid in her memory reconstruction. i think that was one of the most enthralling parts of this memoir. and while the deeply personal portrait of a daughter's grief seems like an unlucky publishing parallel to michelle zauner's early 2021 release, it is by no means explored in a similar fashion. here, chow's father—in all his eccentricities—takes center stage. he is lovingly wrought, even as chow grapples with the part he's played in her own suffering, and his own journey to rediscover his roots near the end of seeing ghosts was particularly engaging. i loved the cuban-chinese history weaved through the narrative, i loved the slowburn characterization of chow's sisters and father, and though the grief surrounding her mother was puzzlingly obscure, there was a certain relief—and an even starker kind of grief—to the notion of not knowing enough to detail the last moments of your mother's life. this is a memoir you have to wade through slowly to understand its full effects. it's gorgeous once you do, and illuminating, and mournful, and also beautifully free.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Deb

    Thank you to Grand Central Pub and NetGalley for my advanced reading/listening copies of this book. I highly recommend the audio if you love listening to authors reading their books as well, especially for the pronunciation of the Chinese words she shares. Last night, Kat Chow sat down with Chanel Miller (hulllo, DREAM DUO ANYONE?) to discuss the book and a part that really resonated with me was the pair discussing how Kat described her mother’s goofy & mischievous nature; which is different than Thank you to Grand Central Pub and NetGalley for my advanced reading/listening copies of this book. I highly recommend the audio if you love listening to authors reading their books as well, especially for the pronunciation of the Chinese words she shares. Last night, Kat Chow sat down with Chanel Miller (hulllo, DREAM DUO ANYONE?) to discuss the book and a part that really resonated with me was the pair discussing how Kat described her mother’s goofy & mischievous nature; which is different than how Asian mothers are typically portrayed and this really reminded me of my mom. If you’ve been here for a while, you know that I’m the kind of person who will cry over a commercial but have only cried in ONE book before (hi Namesake) but, I cried in this one, put it down for a bit, and called my mom (who didn’t answer ASAP and then gave me a cheeky answer I think Kat and her mom would enjoy). I think that speaks volumes at how hauntingly beautiful Kat’s writing is and how deeply connected readers will feel reading her book. This book might have hit me the way it did as I saw the similarities between Kat’s mother-daughter relationship in my own (the Cantonese words likely played a bit part in that, see comments for a few translations to enhance your reading), but will also truly resonate with anyone. This has been added to my list of fave memoirs. On that note, there’s a small passage that I’ll end this review on—re: Kat’s dad discussing how he missed his wife taking care of him (i.e., cutting her fruit for dessert, page 294) and it might not mean much to all, but I’m leaving it here because it really got me: “Almost anyone with a Chinese mother knows this small gesture usually means love.”

  4. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    [review of an ARC] I don't read a lot on grief. Not intentionally, it just doesn't come across my radar often. Coupled with the word "Ghosts" in the title (and the fact that I'm currently balls-deep in the 274 seasons of Supernatural), I didn't pick this up right away because it gave me "help, I'm seeing the ghost of my dead mother everywhere I go and it's sending me into an endless spiral of hard partying, drinking, and a general lack of self care" vibes. Admittedly, I gave it a try when I saw t [review of an ARC] I don't read a lot on grief. Not intentionally, it just doesn't come across my radar often. Coupled with the word "Ghosts" in the title (and the fact that I'm currently balls-deep in the 274 seasons of Supernatural), I didn't pick this up right away because it gave me "help, I'm seeing the ghost of my dead mother everywhere I go and it's sending me into an endless spiral of hard partying, drinking, and a general lack of self care" vibes. Admittedly, I gave it a try when I saw the blurbs from Ocean Vuong and Alexander Chee (I've discovered I will read literally anything blurbed by Chee), and was pleasantly surprised (also, that cover!). The title is really only part of this story. Grief is a weird thing that spans lifetimes and generations and changes but then doesn't really change at all. We change around it. Kat Chow's particular grief (over her mother dying when Chow was a child) molds itself around her relationships to her father, sisters, her parents' immigrant experience, and her own existence as a daughter of immigrants. What do we really know about our parents as children vs what we learn when we're older? And how is that complicated when a parent dies before you grow up? How is that further complicated through the immigration lens? I didn't intentionally read this after Speak, Okinawa, but it feels in conversation with that at times, around the mother-daughter relationship and the child-of-immigrant experience. Chow has written a very full story, not just about grief, but how it works its way through lifetimes and how we evolve around it at different stages of our lives.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mariya

    I loved this book from beginning to end and I'm so grateful to Kat for writing this and for asking the questions central in this book. What do we owe our parents? What do we owe our dead? And how do we craft ourselves in spaces that emerge after loss? This is an important, instrumental book: Kat masterfully writes not just of her own loss and grief, but that of her parents. She looks at her family, their histories, and her own memory with clarity and empathy. Though ostensibly a book that's abou I loved this book from beginning to end and I'm so grateful to Kat for writing this and for asking the questions central in this book. What do we owe our parents? What do we owe our dead? And how do we craft ourselves in spaces that emerge after loss? This is an important, instrumental book: Kat masterfully writes not just of her own loss and grief, but that of her parents. She looks at her family, their histories, and her own memory with clarity and empathy. Though ostensibly a book that's about who Kat became after losing her mother, the book is equally sharp on her relationship with her father, and it is here that Kat is most unflinching and brave. In less skilled hands, the narrative might suffer for the hints of magical realism that are embedded throughout, but by taking the chance— by trusting us, her readers— Kat manages to instead portray the continuous nature of grief and of the selves we might have been in one of the most effective ways I've ever read in a book. It's poetic, beautifully wrought, and filled with a love that translates off the page. I can't wait to see what she does next!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Steve Haruch

    "This is a book about death" might not seem like the most appealing tag line at first, but in Kat Chow's capable hands, Seeing Ghosts becomes much more than that. It follows the aftermath of her mother's death from cancer, ascending the steep slope of this loss again and again in search of solace and, if not solace, then some semblance of understanding. A book about death is of course a book about life, and how we try to go on — how an absence becomes a presence, with uncertain and sometimes jag "This is a book about death" might not seem like the most appealing tag line at first, but in Kat Chow's capable hands, Seeing Ghosts becomes much more than that. It follows the aftermath of her mother's death from cancer, ascending the steep slope of this loss again and again in search of solace and, if not solace, then some semblance of understanding. A book about death is of course a book about life, and how we try to go on — how an absence becomes a presence, with uncertain and sometimes jagged contours, and how grief continues to transform us in ways we never imagined. I'm grateful for how this book resists easy narratives of redemption, and how it patiently catalogs the stubbornness and beauty of flawed human relationships. And I'm in awe of how it collects so many intimate moments into a rich, ambivalent, almost incantatory whole.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    There's this meme about grief that's floating around the internet. It's a picture of two scenarios: First, a large black sphere in a glass jar diminishing over time to the size of a marble. Then, below it, the large black sphere stays the exact same size as the jar enlarges around it. It's captioned: "People tend to believe that grief shrinks over time. What really happens is that we grow around our grief." I've read many memoirs, some of them about grief. They often center around trauma as an im There's this meme about grief that's floating around the internet. It's a picture of two scenarios: First, a large black sphere in a glass jar diminishing over time to the size of a marble. Then, below it, the large black sphere stays the exact same size as the jar enlarges around it. It's captioned: "People tend to believe that grief shrinks over time. What really happens is that we grow around our grief." I've read many memoirs, some of them about grief. They often center around trauma as an immediate event. The shocking and debilitating repercussions. Kat Chow's memoir is one that spans a lifetime, several if you count the lives of her family members, which I do. "Seeing Ghosts" is an emotionally generous, intricately researched look at what grief looks like as you grow around it. As you continue to live your life with the presence of those you've lost. As I read "Seeing Ghosts," it struck me how few experiences I've had with Cantonese American literature. When was the last time I read "Lei sik dzo fan mei a?" or "Wah, gum guay!" in a book? When was the last time I read an "immigrant narrative" that didn't deify older parents but instead tried to really thoroughly investigate them for who they are – and who they might be hiding from their children? Using humor and horror, Kat Chow does not glamorize this experience, nor does she wallow in it as a guilt trip. Is writing an exorcism or is it its own form of preservation? To me, "Seeing Ghosts" is a pouring of libations. For those who have experienced loss, this cup never empties.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Megan Tristao

    Memoir of an American-born Chinese woman who lost her mother when she was young. Much of the book is written to the mother, and it also talks a lot about her relationship with her father and her sisters after her mother's death, and her family history dating back to when and why they left Hong Kong. The audiobook is narrated by the author, so I recommend consuming this one via audio. 01.14.2021: Memoir of a former member of the NPR Code Switch team! Memoir of an American-born Chinese woman who lost her mother when she was young. Much of the book is written to the mother, and it also talks a lot about her relationship with her father and her sisters after her mother's death, and her family history dating back to when and why they left Hong Kong. The audiobook is narrated by the author, so I recommend consuming this one via audio. 01.14.2021: Memoir of a former member of the NPR Code Switch team!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tanvi

    This book made me cry. Kat adeptly maneuvers the personal and the political, the private and the public, the grief and the joy. The memoir tells the story of not just one deep and obvious loss, but of layered set of quotidian losses associated with migration, assimilation, and identification. It is the quintessential story of the American family, and how they survive and reclaim their stories — collective and individual.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Queen Ophilia III

    ☆ i got a audiobook arc from Netgalley for an honest review ☆ This is a really well written book. I was worried about the "story" or memories not being in order. Usually this makes a book messy. But i think Kat did a wonderful job on making it sound/look very smooth and i felt like i wasnt lost at any point. And when you think about it: memories comes in moments that reminds you of something and not in order all at once. The audiobook itself is read by Kat which i think gave a very personal touc ☆ i got a audiobook arc from Netgalley for an honest review ☆ This is a really well written book. I was worried about the "story" or memories not being in order. Usually this makes a book messy. But i think Kat did a wonderful job on making it sound/look very smooth and i felt like i wasnt lost at any point. And when you think about it: memories comes in moments that reminds you of something and not in order all at once. The audiobook itself is read by Kat which i think gave a very personal touch. Her reading had alot of emotion but wasnt over the top either. It was a perfect voice that i could listen longer moments on. I learned alot about asian culture. I myself cant personally relate to being an immigrant or feeling like parts of my culture isnt here. I can also say i never lost a family member nor a friend, i been very lucky. So i cant relate to going through this kind of grief. But i can understand how things like this form us as a person. How its something that affects us, especially if we are very young. Losing people we love isnt easy. I feel like we got to hear/read some intimate moments in Kats life with her family before, during and after her mothers death. But also see through her lens how not only she but her whole family struggled in their own way with grief. A very interesting read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    books_by_bethany

    In Kat Chow’s memoir, she describes her life with her family, both before and after her mother died from cancer when Kat was a young teenager. Kat’s voice captures her family’s story, from their immigration from China to America, and her life growing up with her two sisters and their single, widowed father. While I was a bit nervous that I would dislike the writing style, as she recounts the memories of her life out of order, I did get use to it and enjoyed her narrative. I learned a lot about h In Kat Chow’s memoir, she describes her life with her family, both before and after her mother died from cancer when Kat was a young teenager. Kat’s voice captures her family’s story, from their immigration from China to America, and her life growing up with her two sisters and their single, widowed father. While I was a bit nervous that I would dislike the writing style, as she recounts the memories of her life out of order, I did get use to it and enjoyed her narrative. I learned a lot about her culture, and I appreciated her sharing her story. Kat’s grief and strength are beautifully depicted on the page, and loved her close bond to her sisters. I commend Kat for sharing her life with her readers, and this was an excellent memoir. Thank you so much to Grand Central Publishing for my gifted copy of this book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    SEEING GHOSTS by Kat Chow is an amazing memoir! In this book Kat shares very openly about losing her mother to cancer at a young age. I felt such an immediate connection to her as we are both Chinese. I loved learning about her family history and the writing really took me on a journey through time and grief. I quite enjoyed the use of the second person point of view throughout as Kat has so much to say and ask her mother. There were several extremely poignant parts that made me sad. I appreciat SEEING GHOSTS by Kat Chow is an amazing memoir! In this book Kat shares very openly about losing her mother to cancer at a young age. I felt such an immediate connection to her as we are both Chinese. I loved learning about her family history and the writing really took me on a journey through time and grief. I quite enjoyed the use of the second person point of view throughout as Kat has so much to say and ask her mother. There were several extremely poignant parts that made me sad. I appreciated the honesty and relatability. While reading this book it made me reflect on my own family and how we’re all still dealing with our own ghosts in our own ways. I found this book to really resonate with me. It’s my fave memoir of 2021 so far! . Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for my gifted copy!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Allen Wagner

    In Seeing Ghosts, Kat writes masterfully about the loss of her mother to cancer, how she and her family processes her mother’s death, and what it means to understand and unearth her family history—reconciling her memories with what she learns from her father, sisters, aunts, and others later on. This is an intimate story of grief, family relationships, and immigrant struggle. But Seeing Ghosts is not without lighthearted moments, as well; as Kat is as skillful describing the somber as she is reca In Seeing Ghosts, Kat writes masterfully about the loss of her mother to cancer, how she and her family processes her mother’s death, and what it means to understand and unearth her family history—reconciling her memories with what she learns from her father, sisters, aunts, and others later on. This is an intimate story of grief, family relationships, and immigrant struggle. But Seeing Ghosts is not without lighthearted moments, as well; as Kat is as skillful describing the somber as she is recalling some of the more playful of her family memories. Seeing Ghosts will appeal to all readers, but for those who have experienced loss or struggled to feel belonging in society, Kat’s words will resonate deeply. Me personally, I have not experienced the type of loss and grief that Kat has. But it’s a testament to her writing of such a personal and moving story, that Kat has inspired me to better understand my own family’s history—before those who can tell it best pass.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    This was a dense, beautiful, well researched memoir of questions. Kat Chow investigates her own grief and her family's, her inheritance of melancholy. She muses about what her mother might have been like if she lived, if she would have stayed with her dad or not. She imagines her mother's childhood and her father's, even wondering after what her own father is feeling in the moment, since he's so un-expressive. Kat does an amazing job exploring the loss often inherent in the immigrant experience. This was a dense, beautiful, well researched memoir of questions. Kat Chow investigates her own grief and her family's, her inheritance of melancholy. She muses about what her mother might have been like if she lived, if she would have stayed with her dad or not. She imagines her mother's childhood and her father's, even wondering after what her own father is feeling in the moment, since he's so un-expressive. Kat does an amazing job exploring the loss often inherent in the immigrant experience. I learned a lot about Chinese people living in Cuba, Chinese death traditions, and more. At times, the memoir felt a bit meandering. Toward the end, I was like "damn this girl could pontificate about her family forever, how is she going to wrap this up?" But the ending felt right. A very well done memoir. You can feel the love she has for her family through the pages. I'm sure writing it was a very healing experience.

  15. 4 out of 5

    smalltownbookmom

    Part grief memoir, part family history, this was a really good account from a Chinese American daughter coming to terms with her mother's death and her relationship with her father afterwards. I really enjoyed the family history parts of the story, learning about her father's family and their experience leaving China and making their way to America. Lots of relatable moments for anyone who has lost a parent at a young age, going through therapy and then later having to deal with caring for an ag Part grief memoir, part family history, this was a really good account from a Chinese American daughter coming to terms with her mother's death and her relationship with her father afterwards. I really enjoyed the family history parts of the story, learning about her father's family and their experience leaving China and making their way to America. Lots of relatable moments for anyone who has lost a parent at a young age, going through therapy and then later having to deal with caring for an aging parent. I did find parts of this dragged a bit but overall I really enjoyed it and if you're curious about the cover, Kat's parent's were into fish taxidermy - definitely a hobby I was not familiar with! Recommended for fans of Crying in H Mart. Much thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my ALC. This was an enjoyable listen on audio read by the author. Favorite quote: "What is grief if not the act of survival?"

  16. 4 out of 5

    Yvette

    i'm so grateful for this book and kat's vulnerability; i loved and related to the interiority of her parents and family dynamics, the heaviness of the silences, her dad's "i don't know." she weaves in david eng, shinhee han, and anne anlin cheng's work on racial melancholy to describe her parents' suspended assimilation and the lingering loss and grief surrounding her family. not to mention the transnational history and research involved in exploring her grandfather's history in cuba. really coo i'm so grateful for this book and kat's vulnerability; i loved and related to the interiority of her parents and family dynamics, the heaviness of the silences, her dad's "i don't know." she weaves in david eng, shinhee han, and anne anlin cheng's work on racial melancholy to describe her parents' suspended assimilation and the lingering loss and grief surrounding her family. not to mention the transnational history and research involved in exploring her grandfather's history in cuba. really cool and masterful, i love this book!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kyra Johnson

    SEEING GHOSTS is Kat Chow’s poignant memoir where she reflects on losing her mother to cancer at a young age. Chow writes beautifully of her high-spirited mother, examines her relationship with her sisters and father, and explores her family history and their immigration experience. Chow thoughtfully shares how her and her family processed their grief and navigated through life without her mother. I highly recommend this stunning, grounding memoir about the universality of grief.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ali Chappell DeHay

    If you like grief-y, dark and a little bit twisty memoirs… you’ll love this. A beautiful and incredibly authentic portrait of losing a parent and finding your way with your other parent that is left.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

    I had trouble putting this book down. Such clear and relatable writing, telling such complex stories of love, grief, frustration, and a bunch of other deeply human feelings stuff. Excellent use of embedded photos, too, I wish more memoirs' use of photography was as good. (nb: I read an advance reading copy which I received from the publisher.) cn: I don't want to label things the author didn't label in the book, but this pushed my own past-history buttons some on topics like verbal abuse, hitting I had trouble putting this book down. Such clear and relatable writing, telling such complex stories of love, grief, frustration, and a bunch of other deeply human feelings stuff. Excellent use of embedded photos, too, I wish more memoirs' use of photography was as good. (nb: I read an advance reading copy which I received from the publisher.) cn: I don't want to label things the author didn't label in the book, but this pushed my own past-history buttons some on topics like verbal abuse, hitting children, hoarding, financial irresponsibility, and the painfulness of being an immigrant.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeenie

    A really stark look into how the loss of a parent spans across your entire life. Kat Chow does a phenomenal job of showing all of the ways her mother’s ghost impacts her daily life and the way she processes life, joy, and family.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Allison Palmer

    I requested this ARC because I've always loved Kat Chow's work for NPR. Chow took a risk by organizing her story in a non-chronological order but it pays big dividends. We shuttle from her childhood to before her birth to her adulthood to her teen years. In less-skilled hands, I might find this confusing or off-putting - but I ended up loving how her thoughts flowed the way memories often do. The effect is wistful, poetic, and evocative. While Chow isn't afraid to share moments that cast herself I requested this ARC because I've always loved Kat Chow's work for NPR. Chow took a risk by organizing her story in a non-chronological order but it pays big dividends. We shuttle from her childhood to before her birth to her adulthood to her teen years. In less-skilled hands, I might find this confusing or off-putting - but I ended up loving how her thoughts flowed the way memories often do. The effect is wistful, poetic, and evocative. While Chow isn't afraid to share moments that cast herself and others in a less-than-flattering light, she does not assign judgment or blame. Her approach is open-hearted and accepting of human frailty. This is one of the many aspects of "Seeing Ghosts" that elevates it in contrast to many other memoirs I've read. Satisfying from start to finish and a pleasure to read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Leigh Kramer

    I've been looking forward to Kat Chow's memoir ever since she announced it and it exceeded all expectations. A gorgeously written, luminous exploration of grief. It has a nonlinear structure with snippets of essays, some longer than others, and even this is reminiscent of how grief functions. Her mother died of cancer when she was 13 and I was fascinated by the way she sometimes experienced her grief by imagining or sensing her mother’s ghost. There’s so much to admire in how Chow chose to explo I've been looking forward to Kat Chow's memoir ever since she announced it and it exceeded all expectations. A gorgeously written, luminous exploration of grief. It has a nonlinear structure with snippets of essays, some longer than others, and even this is reminiscent of how grief functions. Her mother died of cancer when she was 13 and I was fascinated by the way she sometimes experienced her grief by imagining or sensing her mother’s ghost. There’s so much to admire in how Chow chose to explore her own experience of grief, as well as her family history as a child of immigrants. Her mother’s death was naturally a ripple effect of loss throughout their family, strikingly seen through her father now needing to be the primary caretaker. He is not suited for the role, nor did he step up to the plate, possibly due to an undiagnosed mental illness or neurodivergence. He hoards and lets the house deteriorate. He resists most of his daughters’ advice or help, while insisting they respect him since he’s their father. It was often hard to read these parts and I really felt for them. Chow writes with compassion and grace about their relationship, even in the struggle. I’m so glad she wrote this book. Highly recommended. CW: death of mother when author was 13 (liver cancer), grief, mother was hospitalized and then on life support, brother both two months early and died two hours after he was born (before author was alive), hoarding (father), father stole author’s tuition check, depression, stigma about mental health (countered), racism, gender essentialism (via father, countered), brief recounting of rape by boyfriend, sister had fertility issues and fibroids but gives birth by end of book, father arrested in tenant dispute, police brutality, homophobic slur by loiterer, cigarettes (mother), alcohol, inebriation, mentally ill man self-immolated at her university, death of other relatives (mostly past), death of pets (parakeets, fish), maternal grandmother was diagnosed with uterine cancer while pregnant with author’s mother and advised to abort (took tonics but didn’t work), maternal grandmother died when mother was 4, parents’ families both escaped China and went to Hong Kong, relative sent to labor camp by Communists, mention of poet’s brother who died by suicide, reference to past desecration of graves

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Felch

    I keep reading books and memoirs related to grief to try and understand my own grief through the lens of someone else's experience. I didn't realize how much I would relate to Kat's story - her growing up in Connecticut and moving to Seattle, and of course a cancer story, all relates back to my own story. I appreciated learning more about the immigrant experience in Connecticut too as I was incredibly unaware of that as a child. Her reflections on nostalgia, hope, and loss shed light on my own e I keep reading books and memoirs related to grief to try and understand my own grief through the lens of someone else's experience. I didn't realize how much I would relate to Kat's story - her growing up in Connecticut and moving to Seattle, and of course a cancer story, all relates back to my own story. I appreciated learning more about the immigrant experience in Connecticut too as I was incredibly unaware of that as a child. Her reflections on nostalgia, hope, and loss shed light on my own experience and for that, I am grateful to have read this book. Some memorable quotes: "Freud wrote famously about mourning and melancholia. These two types of grief were distinct from one another, he posited in an essay from 1917. Mourning had an end in sight; a person in mourning had a grief that adhered to a specific person or object. But melancholia was an ongoing state--pathological, almost. The melancholic may know they have lost something, but not exactly what they have lost." "'The melancholic eats their lost object--feeds on it, as it were.' Eats, feeds. As though those who have internalized loss become ravenous in their hunger for sustaining their grief. It bloats them, but they continue to feast. Perhaps, instead of asking if I am exorcising or taxidermizing you, I should ask if really, I am taxidermizing myself. What within my grief am I afraid to lose? It is the idea of her, of course. Here, so many years later, I can't shake her death and don't seem to want to in the first place. Eats, feeds, eats, feeds--insatiable." "That trip and drive and seeing the city with my family, it gives me for the first time in years a flash of a feeling--an awe, a calmness. I'd experienced it in high school driving across the Connecticut River, and then in Seattle looking out at Portage Bay. I'd always thought it meant I was home. But it is the slow spread of radiant joy. A gentle hope." "That is what it means to lose someone, understanding how, after all these years, memories shift and shape us. How we cannot exorcise someone as much as we try; we must learn the ways in which we preserve parts of them in ourselves."

  24. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    “You girls are her heartstrings. I imagine your heart as still able to be plucked and played, that the three of us daughters have inhabited it and are helping it pitter-patter into a beat, the same as you have for ours.” This memoir is [heart]warming in that it moves and touches, more than words can express and in amounts that cannot be measured. Reading this book literally caused my heart to ache, my stomach to clench, sending a continuous warmth so unusual down my spine. Kat Chow’s evocative wr “You girls are her heartstrings. I imagine your heart as still able to be plucked and played, that the three of us daughters have inhabited it and are helping it pitter-patter into a beat, the same as you have for ours.” This memoir is [heart]warming in that it moves and touches, more than words can express and in amounts that cannot be measured. Reading this book literally caused my heart to ache, my stomach to clench, sending a continuous warmth so unusual down my spine. Kat Chow’s evocative writing on grief caused me to grieve with her, to grieve of my own losses, and to grieve for my future losses. Though her narrative is melancholic, navigating her family’s (herself, two sisters and father) devastating grief after her mother’s unexpected death from cancer, it also illuminates and enlightens; illuminating in the way Kat and her sisters describe and remember their mother for her goofiness and mischievousness; enlightening in the way Kat defines how writing is an exorcism and a form of preservation as she excavates her family’s history of grief/loss and endeavors to understand their ghosts. This poetic, beautifully wrought book that is so full of love resonated with me so much, and I believe anyone who reads it will feel deeply connected. I am completely awe-struck in the way Kat phonetically spells out Cantonese phrases—phrases that she remembers her mother by—and how they vividly remind me of my own mother; how automatic phrases, like “lei sik dzo fan mei a” (translated: have you eaten yet) is their form of greeting and affection.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elena Robidoux

    Devastating, yet illuminating! This book gives immense shape and perspective to the experience of grief on both a personal and collective level. I appreciated how Chow connected racial identity formation to the grieving process; rather, how immigrant communities are made to contend with cultural and historical loss and to create a new normal from that absence - not unlike a family in the aftermath of a death. Chow’s closeup of her father (I.e. his response to death and ambiguity) extrapolates on Devastating, yet illuminating! This book gives immense shape and perspective to the experience of grief on both a personal and collective level. I appreciated how Chow connected racial identity formation to the grieving process; rather, how immigrant communities are made to contend with cultural and historical loss and to create a new normal from that absence - not unlike a family in the aftermath of a death. Chow’s closeup of her father (I.e. his response to death and ambiguity) extrapolates on this idea that grief can be deeply generational. I loved that this book gave me the opportunity to learn more about the Chinese Diaspora, especially as it pertains to Chinese migration to Cuba in the mid 1800s (the coolie trade) - a part of history that was unknown to me prior. Chow also speaks to the evocative nature of grief as it manifests in food, taste and smell à la “Crying In H Mart.” Her use of Diana Khoi Nguyen’s haunting chapbook, “Ghost Of” as a framework for the book added yet another dimension to the writing. Such multifaceted, introspective musings - but never without heart and candor.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kali Cannizzaro

    I am a sucker for a good cover. This one drew me in hook, line, and sinker 🐟 “Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir” is the story of Kat Chow’s life in relation to her family of origin. More specifically, it is her almost scientific observations of her family, both living and passed on, and how she strives to better understand them. Not a typical memoir, this one features some shocking realizations of her family that may not be simply explained away through the lens of culture that she had assumed for much of I am a sucker for a good cover. This one drew me in hook, line, and sinker 🐟 “Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir” is the story of Kat Chow’s life in relation to her family of origin. More specifically, it is her almost scientific observations of her family, both living and passed on, and how she strives to better understand them. Not a typical memoir, this one features some shocking realizations of her family that may not be simply explained away through the lens of culture that she had assumed for much of her life. I typically love a book narrated by the author but I felt this one would have benefited from increased emotional expression. I finished wondering if this would have been an even better experience had I read the physical book. Kudos to Kat Chow for sharing the good, the bad, and the questionable in such an unflinching manner. Give this well-written book a try! Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and publisher for the opportunity to listen to this audiobook. The opinions in this review are entirely my own. * * * #SeeingGhosts #SeeingGhostsAMemoir #NetGalley #KatChow #HachetteAudio #CoverArt #CoverLove #LoveAGoodCover #Memoir #Nonfiction #family #familysecrets #mothersanddaughters #fathersanddaughters #loveandloss #complicatedfamilies #audiobook

  27. 5 out of 5

    Karen Parisot

    Kat is the youngest of the three Chow sisters. Their mother was a very dynamic woman, full of life, and the rock upon which their family was built. With her untimely death, a huge void is left in Kat’s heart and her life, and she has a difficult time coming to terms with it. Her memoir is told in snippets as she tries to trace her family history, recalls the circumstances surrounding the loss of her mother, and her evolving relationship with her father. I found this book a little sad, reading ab Kat is the youngest of the three Chow sisters. Their mother was a very dynamic woman, full of life, and the rock upon which their family was built. With her untimely death, a huge void is left in Kat’s heart and her life, and she has a difficult time coming to terms with it. Her memoir is told in snippets as she tries to trace her family history, recalls the circumstances surrounding the loss of her mother, and her evolving relationship with her father. I found this book a little sad, reading about how much her life was affected by losing her mother at such a young age. It’s very good and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes memoirs or who is dealing with the loss of a loved one. 3.75 stars

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kari

    My Review Of SEEING GHOSTS: A Memoir By Author, Kat Chow Gifted & Published by @GrandCentralPublushing On Sale: 8/24/21 - Purchase Link in Bio ****** This memoir was a very touching recall of the profound effect a mother’s death has on her daughter. It reminded me so much of losing my mom in 2014 and made me laugh as the Author recounted the silly albeit sometimes unusual things her mother did to make her 3 daughters laugh. So much the same of what my mom used to do. Others may have been embarrassed My Review Of SEEING GHOSTS: A Memoir By Author, Kat Chow Gifted & Published by @GrandCentralPublushing On Sale: 8/24/21 - Purchase Link in Bio ****** This memoir was a very touching recall of the profound effect a mother’s death has on her daughter. It reminded me so much of losing my mom in 2014 and made me laugh as the Author recounted the silly albeit sometimes unusual things her mother did to make her 3 daughters laugh. So much the same of what my mom used to do. Others may have been embarrassed by their mother’s actions but it was like an orchestrated dance between mother and daughter that no matter the embarrassment; it was the emotions and love that will forever be remembered. Her mother’s “face” baring her teeth that was often repeated along after her mother’s passing was very comical. Her mother’s unusual request to be stuffed after her death and to be put on display like a taxidermy on the wall was just normal in this Author’s world. The closeness and stories of the bonds built with her mother before she was taken to soon due to improper health because of the costs of health insurance. This causes her to have so much pain and yearning to have her mother back, that was taken to soon but still lives on in the beautiful memories and with the help of her two older sisters and a father whom she must learn to know. This was written with brilliant recall and wonderfully detailed observations of moments in time. I related so well with the stories and found solace in my own world knowing I wasn’t alone and finding a book that was sympathetic as well as filled with laughter.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Laura Dvorak

    Haunting and immersive, this is a memoir worth reading. I've been following Kat Chow's work for many years and picked up SEEING GHOSTS during its release week. While very much a memoir, the book reads more like a series of vignettes as Chow excavates how her family changed after her mother's death. The writing is beautiful and I read the whole thing in two sittings. My only minor quibble is the structure; at times, I wished for it to be more chronological, but I think ultimately the weaving time Haunting and immersive, this is a memoir worth reading. I've been following Kat Chow's work for many years and picked up SEEING GHOSTS during its release week. While very much a memoir, the book reads more like a series of vignettes as Chow excavates how her family changed after her mother's death. The writing is beautiful and I read the whole thing in two sittings. My only minor quibble is the structure; at times, I wished for it to be more chronological, but I think ultimately the weaving timelines are a much more accurate representation of the nonlinear process of grieving.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Huguette Larochelle

    I win this book. Kat did a very good job, describing her lost of a mother . I know now why there a dead fish on the cover, is for you to find out.

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