Book Review: The Body Papers by Grace Talusan

I picked up this book on the way out of the library, just because it was new, short, and a prize winner! I am so glad I did. With “The Body Papers,” Grace Talusan gives voice to a vastly under-represented demographic, the woman immigrant writer. Although she came to the United States at Two years of age, Grace and her older sister were at risk of being deported after their fathers’ student visa expired. By then, she had three siblings that were naturalized citizens. Grace gives the reader a riveting account of what it feels like to be “other” while her surroundings and soul are grounded in America. Through her words, I imagined the grappling for a sound identity in the midst of two worlds. 
Ms. Talusan also illustrates her book with photographs from her life, some as a child, some as an adult, and others that are simply papers, the papers that tell the story of immigration from the Philippines, the threat of being returned at a moments notice, and the touching letter from her father, a man of few expressed emotions. 
I was struck by the brevity and punch of Ms. Talusan’s words. She begins to hint to the reader of abuse she suffered like this: “None of the doctor’s hypotheses explained the hives. But he was asking the wrong questions. It wasn’t his fault. Who would have guessed?”
As the inheritor of two family legacies, abuse and cancer, Grace takes us through her tribulations in a in a matter-of-fact way that leaves the reader stunned by her bravery and intelligence. Her hopeful and hard-working parents certainly endowed her with the correct name. “Grace” is not just her name, but the way she has chosen to live her wonderful terrible, human life. Above the conversely clamorous and calming atmosphere of her native land, Grace’s voice rings true, direct, and distinctly American.


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