Staff Picks

Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir

Emily Porter

August 20, 2021


Seeing Ghosts unravels her family’s generational grief and reveals how it followed her mother’s life as well as her own.

Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir by Kat Chow, Grand Central Publishing  

I first came across Kat Chow, writer and reporter, on one of my favorite podcasts, RadioLab, and was excited when I saw her name pop up onto our list of upcoming titles. I opened the wonderfully captivating cover of the book, Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir, when it arrived and immediately became enthralled by her writing. It is a beautifully spun ode to her late mother, who was a quirky, quick-witted woman, along with the story of her mother’s family and how she came into the world, which tragically mirrors the story of her death. Her mother came into the world a miracle. Kat’s grandmother’s uterus was riddled with cancer during her pregnancy, causing the start of her mother’s life to be traumatic, fighting her way out into the world at birth. The end of her life, in turn, was sadly caused by cancer.  

Chow maneuvers through her grief through her writing, excavating her family history and telling a powerful immigrant-American story along the way to deal with and understand her loss.  

Mommy, grief is a container of contradictions. I want to expel something, though I do not know what. I want to rid myself of this heaviness, just as much as I want to keep your ghosts. Writing about you is a strange act itself. I am perhaps afraid of it, or at least, I dread it. Yet I feel compelled to write you into being. I am hopeful, though: I spin you out of myself and into something else.  

Chow reveals how losing someone you love can take a toll on not only you, but how you see and understand the world around you, the relationship you had with the deceased, and your family's story. A wonderful and sincere read, Seeing Ghosts unravels her family’s generational grief and reveals how it followed her mother’s life as well as her own.

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