Root Fractures: Poems (Paperback)
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*One of LitHub’s Poetry Books to Read in 2024*
*One of The Millions’s Must Read Poetry Books of Winter 2024*
National Book Award finalist Diana Khoi Nguyen’s second poetry collection, a haunting of a family’s past upon its present, and a frank reckoning with how loss and displacement transform mothers and daughters across generations.
In Root Fractures, Diana Khoi Nguyen excavates the moments of rupture in a family: a mother who was forced underground after the Fall of Saigon, a father who engineered a new life in California as an immigrant, a brother who cut himself out of every family picture before cutting himself out of their lives entirely. And as new generations of the family come of age, opportunities to begin anew blend with visitations from the past. Through poems of disarming honesty and personal risk, Nguyen examines what takes root after a disaster and how we can make a story out of the broken pieces of our lives.
As Terrance Hayes writes, “‘There is nothing that is not music’ for this poet. Poetry is found in the gaps, silences, and ruptures of history.” This astonishing second collection renders poetry into an act of kintsugi, embellishing what is broken in a family’s legacy so that it can be seen in a new light.
About the Author
Poet and multimedia artist Diana Khoi Nguyen was born and raised in California. Her debut poetry collection Ghost Of was selected by Terrance Hayes for the Omnidawn Open Contest and was a finalist for the National Book Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It received the 2019 Kate Tufts Discovery Award and a Colorado Book Award. A Kundiman fellow and member of the Vietnamese diasporic artist collective, She Who Has No Master(s), Nguyen’s other honors include awards from the 92Y “Discovery” Poetry Contest, Key West Literary Seminars, and Academy of American Poets. She teaches creative writing at Randolph College Low-Residency MFA and is an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
“In Root Fractures, we come face-to-face with a dark gravitational pull, the great black hole of war. Through the Vietnamese American experience, Diana Khoi Nguyen languages a feeling many of us can relate to, so often buried, silent and deep, within land, blood, bone, into molecular DNA. Yet because a black hole, deceptively, is not empty space, Nguyen tunnels through memories, photographs, family stories, death, grief, belonging and separation, motherland and mother tongue, relocation and empire—the points of entry and departure in those holes left in her siblings, parents, grandparents, and skyward to generations before. ‘A hole is a hole, but none of them are the same,’ Nguyen writes. Yet, she reminds us, there is a way out. As they ‘illuminate what once was broken,’ each of these poems glimmers and pulses along a pathway out—not for one person alone, but as enduring starlight, for generations to come.” —Layli Long Soldier, author of Whereas
“When I say that Diana Khoi Nguyen’s work is deeply moving and unsettling, I mean that her words move and unsettle ideas about diaspora, identity, and loss in startling and gorgeous ways. I can’t get enough of this devastation.” —Beth Nguyen, author of Owner of a Lonely Heart
“In Diana Khoi Nguyen's beautiful and heartbreaking book, Root Fractures, the leaping imagistic declarative sentence becomes fractured and unreliable, as a way to parse and thread memories and feelings. Stacked to the sky, the declaratives become tenuous and subjunctive, leaning under the weight of family, history, and trauma from displacement and a brother's suicide.” —Victoria Chang, author of With My Back to the World and OBIT
“As she did in her 2018 debut Ghost Of (a National Book Award finalist) Nguyen focuses on the Vietnamese diaspora and her brother’s suicide. Wrenchingly, she includes family photos where he cut himself from the frame before his death: “His absence interrupts us,” she writes.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Diana Khoi Nguyen’s Root Fractures builds from her lauded debut, Ghost Of, a Kate Tufts Discovery Award winner and a finalist for the National Book Award with further investigations of family histories of grief and displacement. In this new collection, absence and omission evolve into a formidable sense of presence and narrative…I am already anticipating what comes next from her.” —Rebecca Morgan Frank, Lit Hub
“Readers may remember Diana Khoi Nguyen’s outstanding debut collection Ghost Of most memorable for its family photo cut-out visual poems in its exploration of grief and migration…[and] bluntness… never hiding rough reality behind flowery words or romanticizing traumas in the diaspora… [In Root Fractures] this quality returns…attached to a lighter touch, perhaps best illustrated by this thesis early in the book: “‘In my country,’ my mother says, ‘a child shows love by listening to her parents without questions.’ But what if the parents are wrong?” This line... compelled me like no other; to dare to counter the dutiful nature of the immigrant daughter within the text of a poem, so succinctly and directly, then return to this question throughout yet another strong collection—more innovative work from Nguyen, in a different way than before.” —The Millions
Praise for Diana Khoi Nguyen
“‘There is nothing that is not music’ for this poet. Poetry is found in the gaps, silences, and ruptures of history.” —Terrance Hayes