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Literature & Fiction - Poetry

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When My Mother is Most Beautiful

ISBN: 9781934909775

When My Mother is Most Beautiful is at once a powerful love letter to a mother and to language itself, delving into complex questions of family, communication, culture, and connection. These poems chronicle the difficult art of navigating multiple cultural identities, examining how languages twist and morph across cultures through the imperfect act of translation, how they bind people together and keep them apart, and even how they could be reimagined to make a better world. This book casts its magic through rigorous hybridity of form and genre, inventing itself as the reader plods deeper and deeper into Suzuki's affective reservoir.


Rebecca Suzuki is a writer, translator and educator from Nagoya, Japan and Queens, New York. Her writing has appeared in clotheslines, Identity Theory, KBG Bar Lit, Blue Earth Review, among others. She is also a translator from Japanese to English. She earned her MFA in Literary Translation and Creative Writing from Queens College, CUNY and is a lecturer of English there.


"In Rebecca Suzuki's When My Mother Is Most Beautiful, the author charges her read- ers to remember that those lost still echo in the living—whether familial mythology, ancestors, or language. The spell of the bilingual writing in Japanese and English writing systems illustrates how one interrupts the other, asking for the deferral of meaning to summon from beyond the page, the spirit of the reader's understanding. Neither world is complete for Suzuki's speakers without each another. This book casts its magic through rigorous hybridity of form and genre, inventing itself as the reader plods deeper and deeper into Suzuki's affective reservoir. This entire book is a marvel, a summoning, a moon song in the night just when I needed it." - Rajiv Mohabir

"Rebecca Suzuki's book, When My Mother Is Most Beautiful is one long searing narrative ode to the speaker's mother, a mother the speaker both connects to and one she disconnects from. The gentle declaratives are both arresting and coy, as images barrel across the page. Ultimately, this gorgeous book tries to answer, but cannot, the question related to family, country, race, history: 'How long are we made to contemplate our belonging?'" - Victoria Chang

"For her memoir When My Mother Is Most Beautiful, Rebecca Suzuki mixes prose, poetry, drama, translation, haibun (a form that combines prose and haiku) to create a gorgeous hybrid and multivocal collection where even a footnote can read like flash prose. A few lines in 'An Interaction at a [Convenience Store]' reveals how readers will be offered numerous reading experiences: inside the English text, there is Japanese in Japanese, Japanese romanized, and available footnotes. For me, because I understand some Japanese, there are times when I grasp the meaning and immediately become a participant in the scene. More often, I can't read the Japanese and I feel bewildered. Other readers may feel unsure or curious. And afterall, such responses are salutary. It is good for a book to elicit strong feelings. Whatever one's reading experience, Suzuki's powerful debut collection is as intimate as one's breath." - Kimiko Hahn

"With a poet's precision and a warrior's heart, Suzuki weaves a searing story of intergenerational loss and longing through her pages, wielding translation, footnotes, and land- scape to forge beauty out of destruction. The poems in this book play with unanswerable questions about home, identity, belonging, and love, and we watch Suzuki break her own heart over and over again while building a world out of language where mothers become gingko trees and there are rabbits inside the moon." - Kelly McMasters