The Grave on the Wall
Author: Brandon Shimoda
Publisher: City Lights (2019)
A memoir and book of mourning, a grandson’s attempt to reconcile his own uncontested citizenship with his grandfather’s lifelong struggle.
Award-winning poet Brandon Shimoda has crafted a lyrical portrait of his paternal grandfather, Midori Shimoda, whose life—child migrant, talented photographer, suspected enemy alien and spy, desert wanderer, American citizen—mirrors the arc of Japanese America in the twentieth century. In a series of pilgrimages, Shimoda records the search to find his grandfather, and unfolds, in the process, a moving elegy on memory and forgetting.
"It is part dream, part memory, part forgetting, part identity. It is a remarkable exploration of how citizenship is forged by the brutal US imperial forces—through slave labor, forced detention, indiscriminate bombing, historical amnesia and wall. If someone asked me, Where are you from? I would answer, From The Grave on the Wall."
–Don Mee Choi
"Shimoda is a mystic writer … He puts what breaches itself (always) onto the page, so that the act of writing becomes akin to paper-making: an attention to fibers, coagulation, texture and the water-fire mixtures that signal irreversible alteration or change. … he has written a book that touches the bottom of my own soul.
"The Grave on the Wall is a passage of aching nostalgia and relentless assembly out of which something more important than objective truth is conjured—a ritual frisson, a veracity of spirit. I am grateful to have traveled along.”
"It's not just a document from which Brandon Shimoda untangles the dead, but it's a portal through which the ghosts can show themselves to him. To exchange that kind of attention between the living and the dead is love."