Hello and thank you for checking out this book review column! Our names are Best and Mudmee and we both love reading. We’re super excited to share some book reviews with you over the next few weeks. We hope you’ll find them helpful and maybe even decide to pick up one of these titles. This week, Mudmee will be reviewing Diana Khoi Nguyen’s book of poems and art, “Ghost Of”.
Ghost Of by Diana Khoi Nguyen
“A human terrifies.
A human is someone who becomes terrified, and having become terrified,
Craves an end to her fear.
This craving carves a cave”[a]
Ghost of is an anthology of poems interspersed with multimedia art. The poems center around the suicide of the author’s brother, Oliver, and her family’s history as refugees from Vietnam. Nguyen explore ideas of grief, loss, family relations, identity, pain and more. Throughout the book are images of Nguyen’s family and free-form poems in various shapes.
This book was assigned for my English-300 class by Mr. Bird, and I felt that it should be shared. This book is absolutely a work of art. Even if you don’t read a word of it, you will still get something out of simply flipping through and just looking at the images and shapes inside it. When I first saw the book, I was drawn to the cover art and the title. The cover is a green tennis court, with slides (shoes) and a shadow of a person that stretches from the slides across the net. While there is no person there, there is still a shadow, and the cover makes you wonder: What happened? Who is, or is not there? Even the title in itself makes you wonder. The title, Ghost Of, ends with no ellipses or any punctuation, indicating that there is any more to say. But the phrase is so loaded that there must be something else to say. This is just the cover of the book, and there is so much more inside the book itself. The cover page exemplifies why I enjoyed this book so much: Nguyen not only uses words in her poem, she has draws on multimedia art to convey her thoughts and emotions to the reader.
The poems in the book are complicated and beautiful. If you are looking for a quick, light read, this is not the book for you. While you can finish the book in one sitting, it will take much more time to ponder about what you have seen and read. When we were reading and discussing this book in class, someone said “meaning is overrated.” For a book such as this one, I have to agree with the statement. While we may not completely understand what Nguyen means when she writes a line such as “a bird’s song / splatters against moist leaves / its lyric out of sync / with melody.” We can feel the pain and confusion she is conveying. The poems feel honest and raw, some of them almost like stream of consciousness writing, and reading them, even without truly understanding them, is an incredible experience.
This is not an easy book to read, but emotional, beautiful, and absolutely worth your time. 10/10