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While so much of the U.S. conversation about race is voiced through blunt outrage or devastation, Asian American poet Cathy Park Hong examines a quieter yet still corrosive set of experiences and emotions in her stirring debut essay collection. Through personal stories about seeing white people strain to tolerate her mother’s English, or seeking therapy after an imagined facial twitch depresses her, or studying the quiet sadness in Richard Pryor’s comedy, she considers the lingering discomforts “built from the sediments of everyday racial experience and the irritant of having one’s perception of reality constantly questioned or dismissed.” Sometimes confident, other times uncertain, Hong is always honest as she gives shape to—and affirms the reality of—struggles often left unsaid.

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