From From: Poems (Paperback)
A major achievement by Monica Youn, “one of the most consistently innovative poets working today” (NPR).
“Where are you from . . . ? No—where are you from from?” It’s a question every Asian American gets asked as part of an incessant chorus saying you’ll never belong here, you’re a perpetual foreigner, you’ll always be seen as an alien, an object, or a threat.
Monica Youn’s From From brilliantly evokes the conflicted consciousness of deracination. If you have no core of “authenticity,” no experience of your so-called homeland, how do you piece together an Asian American identity out of Westerners’ ideas about Asians? Your sense of yourself is part stereotype, part aspiration, part guilt. In this dazzling collection, one sequence deconstructs the sounds and letters of the word “deracinations” to create a sonic landscape of micro- and macroaggressions, assimilation, and self-doubt. A kaleidoscopic personal essay explores the racial positioning of Asian Americans and the epidemic of anti-Asian hate. Several poems titled “Study of Two Figures” anatomize and dissect the Asian other: Midas the striving, nouveau-riche father; Dr. Seuss and the imaginary daughter Chrysanthemum-Pearl he invented while authoring his anti-Japanese propaganda campaign; Pasiphaë, mother of the minotaur, and Sado, the eighteenth-century Korean prince, both condemned to containers allegorical and actual.
From From is an extraordinary collection by a poet whose daring and inventive works are among the most vital in contemporary literature.
About the Author
Monica Youn Monica Youn is the author of From From, and three previous poetry collections: Blackacre, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Barter, and Ignatz, a finalist for the National Book Award. The daughter of Korean immigrants and a former lawyer, she teaches at University of California, Irvine.
“A svelte, intrepid foray into American racism. . . . In reflecting and refracting the fantasies and absurdities, dark secrets and blatant cruelties by which American racism invents and maintains itself, Youn counters our brutal imagination with flammable, superior dreams.”—Joyelle McSweeney, The New York Times Book Review
“From From is equal parts comic and tragic, clinical and wrenching. Monica Youn’s parables and studies are devastating meditations on the sadism of whiteness and the abjection of racial containment. From the personal, to Du Soon Ja, to beloved icons like Dr. Seuss, Youn examines how complicity gestates and develops, how unexamined desire and fear lead to the hatred of the other and oneself while yanking up the roots of words to unearth the hidden biases built into the way we speak. Youn’s strongest work to date, From From is unforgiving and horrifying, singular and absolutely extraordinary.”—Cathy Park Hong
The long prose poem, ‘In the Passive Voice,’ is virtuosic performance addressing, among other subjects, the challenges of maintaining racial solidarity under capitalism. Intimate yet expansive, Youn’s poems bring remarkable depth, candor, and intensity to personal and social history.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“This powerful book is, without a doubt, her best. Written during the Covid pandemic, a time punctuated by unrelenting and visible acts of anti-Asian violence, it speaks directly and unsentimentally of racism and misogyny while still retaining Youn's characteristic style; the familiar references to Greek myth feel catalytic and urgent.”—Dorothy Wang, BOMB Magazine
“A startlingly good book. I think that this book, of all of Youn’s books, is the one that most showcases her powers as a writer and thinker. . . . Youn’s bravery and intellect are on full view. . . . As an Asian American poet, I feel deep emotions when I think about all the incredible work being written by Asian American poets such as Youn. I feel excited about the future of poetry when I read books like this.”—Victoria Chang, Los Angeles Review of Books
“Youn is a master of the poetic conceit, convincingly bringing and holding two figures together while simultaneously dissecting any preconceived ideas of how they must be related. Through these pairings, she also invites readers to consider how they define and differentiate between broader concepts such as myth and history and West and East. . . . Doesn’t this show how fluid, relative, and illusory such ‘historical’ distinctions really are?”—Mia You, Poetry Foundation
“Youn’s formal inventiveness is a pleasure, and the often unexpected connections she makes between mythology, art, literary history, pop culture, and politics make this her most ambitious and invigorating collection yet.”—Laura Sackton, BuzzFeed
“The complex notion of Asian-American identity is spoken to directly in this collection, which ranges from a searing personal essay about surviving anti-Asian racism to a poem that acknowledges Dr. Seuss’s rarely remembered anti-Japanese propaganda campaign.”—Emma Specter, Vogue
“Youn does an extraordinary job of blending historical themes with haunting modern-day experiences to clarify sense of self. Readers will be captivated.”—Library Journal, starred review
“Utterly breathtaking. . . . Youn is addressing more than prejudice in this collection; she tackles the linguistic, the confessional, the historical, and much more. From From is truly an achievement.”—Joanna Acevedo, The Hopkins Review