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The Body Papers

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  1,052 ratings  ·  159 reviews
Winner of The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, Grace Talusan’s memoir The Body Papers bravely explores her experiences with sexual abuse, depression, cancer, and life as a Filipino immigrant, supplemented with government documents, medical records, and family photos.

Born in the Philippines, young Grace Talusan moves with her family to a New England suburb in
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by Restless Books (first published April 2nd 2019)
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Average rating 4.33  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,052 ratings  ·  159 reviews

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Celeste Ng
Grace Talusan writes eloquently about the most unsayable things: the deep gravitational pull of family, the complexity of navigating identity as an immigrant, and the ways we move forward even as we carry our traumas with us. Equal parts compassion and confession, THE BODY PAPERS is a stunning work by a powerful new writer who—like the best memoirists—transcends the personal to speak on a universal level.
Grace Talusan’s memoir The Body Papers is stunning in its self-awareness, honesty, and unassuming beauty. She writes about moving from the Philippines to the United states as a child, experiencing sexual abuse from her grandfather, and navigating cancer later on in life. These topics are often dark and difficult to read about yet Talusan conveys her life in a way that shows she has thoroughly processed every challenge, while still having the emotional openness to let us readers into her struggle ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, Grace Talusan writes about moving from the Philippines to the United States as a child, navigating family secrets/illness and periods of undocumented status, and what it is like to return to her homeland as an adult scholar. The time period comes all the way up to practically the present day, meaning there are two presidents to deal with - President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and his "war on drugs" and President Trump with the ...more
Maria Dolorico
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am the American-born daughter of Philippine immigrants. This book is beautiful - her writing metaphorical and full of imagery, yet sometimes the Talusan book is too much for me and I have to put it down.
She taps into the weight of being an immigrant daughter, that your parents sacrificed everything to give you a life, and how you can never really live up to their dreams, especially if you have trauma and emotions that are intense and cause you to be flawed. In many ways American children and
Christopher Castellani
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There is so much to admire in this brave and fierce and deeply intimate memoir, most notably the author's unsentimental and plainspoken approach to her material. There are no fireworks of language here, no false flourishes designed to obscure or somehow extract beauty from the events she recounts with unflinching clarity. Talusan simply demands that the reader pay attention: to make the rich and often devastating connections among the events of her life: some harrowing, some tender, all of them ...more
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
I am blown away by Grace! Full review to come.

TLDR: I’m recommending The Body Papers to everyone; strike that. This is required reading.

Ugh. This book had me bawling. Stunning and sincere, Grace Talusan tells her story as a Filipina immigrant in America after her father got accepted into a resident program in New England.

As a child, she was forced to keep silent about her family’s immigration status, a major fear for many who were and still are seeking a better life (either for them or
Aug 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent memoir. She wrote about her immigrant experience as a Filipino growing up in New England, traumatic experiences, and her and her family's experience with genetic cancers. It was honest and heart-warming. It was also encouraging to see how she had thrived through some very difficult situations. There were sections that were disturbing and difficult to read. But I'm glad I did. And I'm glad she shared her story.

I had trouble following the timeline. But then I read that she ha
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A complex and beautiful memoir that explores what it is to live in one’s individual body, but also what it is to be connected to a larger body such as a family unit, a community, a place of origin. Talusan deftly weaves together the story of self as experienced through the lens of immigration, family dynamics, racial identity formation, and abuse. But her words extend beyond her story to her family’s story and what it might mean to leave a place and begin somewhere new, what it might mean to car ...more
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
This searing memoir is filled with the author’s truth. Talusan tells her story in a matter of fact way about how her grandfather’s sexual abuse and its fallout, being an other in her own country and her decisions about having the cancer gene. There is so much pain in this memoir as well as hope and not a single word was wasted or in excess.

I received an arc from the publisher but all opinions are my own.

ETA: April 2021 staff pick
Debbie Walker-Lass
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 rive ...more
Jun 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bios-and-memoirs
Grace is an extremely talented storyteller, expertly intertwining the difficult themes of sexual assault, immigrant identity, family relations, and cancer into one cohesive and captivating memoir. I was drawn (and sometimes rightfully repulsed) by her ability to describe scenes and emotions - I felt in my gut the anxiety and chaos of crossing the street in Manila, her father’s confusing despair when their family dog passes away, the embarrassment of accidentally getting her period in school... j ...more
Crystal King
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Beautifully and emotionally wrought, The Body Papers gives us a unique insight into the life of Talusan, a Filipino immigrant. It's a story of a woman living between countries, wrestling with the memories of harrowing sexual abuse at the hands of a family member, and the devastating track record of cancer in the family. These are heavy issues, but Talusan shares her story with unusual clarity of insight, in passages that fill the reader with something indescribable, leaving you unable to tear yo ...more
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, 2019-books
Grace Talusan writes honestly and beautifully about difficult issues - abuse, race, immigrant identity, cancer, and the complexities of family. Her story is heartbreaking at times, but she tells her story in a way that makes it difficult to look away. 4 stars.
Nov 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, ph-lit, nonfiction
-i'm always so hyper-critical of fil-ams (for good reason, i think), but i actually enjoyed reading this memoir!
-reading about grace's experience as a young filipino immigrant gave me insight into what my life could have been had my family decided to go through with immigrating to canada
-i like how honest she is in telling her story. i feel strangely proud of her.
-this might sound weird, but i also really liked reading about a dysfunctional filipino family. it was the representation i needed!!!
Aug 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"My mother complains that since my father retired, he spends too much time watching YouTube videos of the Philippines. "What is he looking for?" she asks me. I don't tell her my theory: he's searching for what he's lost."

Yup this is stunning. Talusan is clearly an expert in her craft. Her writing is excellent and the structure is surprisingly readable considering she doesn't always follow a linear path. It's heavy. There were many moments I put down the book to breathe, but I also read it in alm
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very powerful and personal.
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a powerful book. Heartfelt and courageous, Grace Talusan’s memoir is the real deal. I’m always wary of how immigrant Filipinos express their experience - sometimes it’s shallow, condescending or vapid. This one by Talusan is thoughtful and brimming with positivity amidst the bleak topic. Other Filipino experiences can’t hold a candle to this explosive memoir.

I’m hopeful that those without intimate knowledge of the Philippines will find the remarkable core of this memoir and come out of it
Liz Gray
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I could not put this book down. I read an excerpt in a writing class and then waited impatiently for two weeks for the book’s publication. Talusan writes directly and poetically about her experiences as an immigrant, a sexual abuse and cancer survivor, and a member of a large and complicated family. Her memoir is also enriched by the inclusion of photos, documents and poems. I cannot stop thinking about this sentence: “My grandfather entered my life like lava, incinerating everything in its path ...more
Nikka Palapar
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The limit does not exist when it comes to producing tears of joy, tears of immense pain, and tears of overwhelming sadness when I finished reading each chapter, every sentence, and down to the last word Talusan has beautifully written. I felt seen and heard through this memoir. I will hold this book close to my heart, it a story of my family, it is a story of me, and it is a story for all of us. A must-read in one’s lifetime.
Joyce Hager
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This memoir captivated me with its honesty and beautiful, clear writing. The author bravely recounts her experiences with immigration, childhood trauma, racism, and cancer. I learned more about the Filipino culture and my admiration grew for the author’s courage in the face of adversity.
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The Body Papers is a memoir written by Filipina-American Fullbright Scholar, Grace Talusan. A book that explores how much trauma a body can take while trying to keep your heart & soul alive, this book shows how Talusan’s healing has not been a linear process, but one that has been constant, however wavering, even when facing death (or its likelihood.)

Born in Manila, Philippines, Talusan immigrated to Boston, Massachusetts with her mom, dad & older sister. She returns to Manila throughout her li
Donna Lewis
Aug 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a story about Grace Talusan, a writer who has written a memoir about her journey from the Philippines as a child to her growing up in New England. Along the way she delves into her years of sex abuse by her grandfather, and the cancer deaths of numerous family members. She also gets the devastating news that she carries the BRCA cancer gene, leading to hard decisions.
As a child she and her family face possible deportation, although at that time Reagan’s policies did not force a return t
Aug 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful memoir by a Filipina author. I listened to the audiobook which is read by the author which is always nice, but I would not recommend that bc the book has pictures.. Grace Talusan writes while on a fellowship in the Philippines abt her family immigrating, childhood sexual abuse (TW), racism from school friends, and of course, living in her body, as a BRCA carrier with a growing desire to have children (while her husband does not).
Melissa Kapadia
Jan 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Stunning and important.
Apr 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Read this in one sitting as the internet has gone out in my area. The older I'm getting, the more I'm appreciating memoir's and value of learning from them. ...more
Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Body Papers covers a lot of ground that could easily fall into what people refer to as "trauma porn" -- Filipino life and politics, first generation immigration, incest, cancer -- its hard to believe that one person has lived this whole life, let alone written about it with such honesty, clarity and concision.
The Body Papers is a difficult book to read, but one that has been crafted by a deeply talented writer with much love.
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
I understand that the author had a story she needed to tell, and I know writing a memoir is hard, but I felt disappointed with this one. I think my expectations were off, too. I thought this was more about immigration. Instead it was about surviving sexual abuse and worrying about getting cancer. And maybe about the Philippines. Or maybe about being an aunt to a niece who loses an eye.

The chapters didn’t seem to flow. I often wondered why the topic changed or what the theme was. Time jumped aro
Todd Larson
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was one of my most powerful reading experiences. I wanted to cry for Grace and her husband after I put it down, for what they went through regarding sexual and physical abuse, racism, immigrant issues, the threat of cancer genes, and family rifts and reconciliations. Grace weaves her story in a combination of vignettes and coherent narratives, depending on when each is appropriate, and creates a pastiche of a turbulent journey to integrity, social conscience, and success. That they were abl ...more
May 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
Loved the writing, disappointed in the editing. Several overly-detailed callbacks to stories that have already been explained in chapters of their own. Many reminders of who people are when as a reader I already felt I knew them personally. A few times I thought I had actually accidentally started re-reading paragraphs that were, in fact, just written twice with slight tweaks. The writing is truly beautiful and the stories are moving, but the memoir needs a new round of sharp eyes to keep the au ...more
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was at first concerned about reading this book, as I didn't think I'd relate to her content, but the more I read, the more I realized that the issues brought forward have haunted me as well. Those issues that don't are ones I struggle to understand and grasp. I am grateful for her making them public. I have had subtle discriminations, being of Italian heritage, but not Catholic, being raised in a WASP church, when I am not. Being raised as white yet realizing lately that my uncles - and furthe ...more
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