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The Body Papers: A Memoir

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4.40  ·  Rating details ·  420 ratings  ·  71 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
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Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by Restless Books (first published April 2nd 2019)
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Average rating 4.40  · 
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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.
Thomas
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
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
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
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Audrey
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
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.
Gretchen
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very powerful and personal.
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 ...more
Andrienne
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
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Patrice
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 ...more
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.
Katherine
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-books, memoir
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.
Tanya
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.
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 ...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 ...more
Diane
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 ...more
Renee
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
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Alicia
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The most important book I’ve read this year.
Ynca Ann Eve Duerme
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In a way, this is a memoir of justification, of Talusan's childhood experience and trauma--of the things she couldn't understand then but felt overwhelmed now at the sudden realization of violence. That violence is angry, and only through the retelling of the stories around her--historical facts and old family tales do the violence reveal itself. Like the Filipino saying of "Walang bahong hindi umaalingasaw at walang sikretong hindi na bubunyag," this memoir reeks of the painful experience the ...more
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 ...more
Lance Eaton
Talusan's memoir interweaves the various threads of her life into a tapestry that is magisterial to see in its fullness and both powerful and painful to watch in its development. She shares with readers the many challenges, emotions, and scars she has experienced through her life negotiating her racial, ethnic, social, and gender identities. From leaving her home in the Philipines to growing up in a white suburban Boston enclave to surviving sexual abuse from a family member to grappling with ...more
Emily
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 ...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.
Carolyn
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that's very very hard to read, but impossible to put down. The way she's found the solid core of what happened makes the crazy-making stories she learned to tell herself that much more gutting.
Jenny Shank
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
from https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/5...

Grace Talusan immigrated to America with her family from the Philippines when she was a preschooler. In this moving, clear-eyed memoir, which won the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, she probes the events of her life, documenting them with photographs and official papers. She involves the reader in her quest to make sense of who she has become by charting where she’s been. “Immigration is a kind of death,” she writes. “You leave one
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Kristina A
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A very powerful, brave, and moving memoir. Grace Talusan's prose is spare and understated, allowing for the reader to contemplate the enormity of what she writes about. The book begins with a description of making yogurt, a comforting and evocative image that belies the dangers and pain that will become the main focus of the book. I believe that a strong theme of the book has to do with how we make sense of the painful things that happen to us and that we see around us, whether that's by ...more
Trish
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
THE BODY PAPERS, winner of The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, is Grace Talusan's precise, powerful debut memoir in essays: life as a Filipino immigrant, sexual abuse and its effects on her mental health, and cancer.

At two years old, Talusan immigrated from the Philippines to the Massachusetts suburbs and writes about her childhood experiences feeling like an outsider. “Our house was American on the outside, but Filipino on the inside,” Talusan writes. While home is a sanctuary
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Bookaholic
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faves, 2019
"Immigration is a kind of death. You leave one life for another one with no guarantee of seeing your loved ones or home again." (p. 174)

TRIGGER WARNING: This book recounts (severe) animal cruelty, plus sexual abuse (the latter you probably already know of--by reading the book's jacket).

This beautiful memoir is simply unputdownable--it is one of the best books I've read in 2019. The author has an eloquent, sharp, and lyrical voice, which you'd want to listen to for hours on end, despite the
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Dee
Jan 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Grace Talusan's memoir incorporates here complicated history of trauma and sexual assault with what it's like to be an immigrant in suburban America. She has a lot to say and teach us.

There's so much here that I think I would've actually liked two memoirs, one devoted to the assaults she suffered from and one about the immigrant experience. Combined was almost too much.

The story is framed - it begins as she returns to the Philippines after having come to America at age 2 and then returns to
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Jenilee
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: filipinx
Talusan writes beautifully, intimately and honestly about very dark times in her life. It’s hard to imagine one life filled with so much trauma - facing racism as a child after her family moves from the Philippines to the US, learning of her family’s undocumented status, years of sexual abuse by her grandfather, fighting for her health as she’s faced with painful decisions on how to beat cancer, letting go of the chance at motherhood...

The weight of her abuse carries on throughout her life and
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