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How to Write a Memoir While Grieving

Nicole Chung | Longreads | March 1, 2018 | 2,845 words
Posted inEssays & Criticism, Featured, Nonfiction, Story

How to Write a Memoir While Grieving

Nicole Chung contemplates loss, adoption, and working on a book her late father won’t get to see.
Illustration by Katie Kosma

Nicole Chung | Longreads | March 2018 | 11 minutes (2,845 words)

I am writing a book my father will never see. Not in its entirety, not out in the world. He got through about half of my first draft, my mother said, or maybe a little bit more, sometimes using a magnifying glass to read the manuscript I’d sent in 12-point double-spaced Times. When I heard this, I berated myself — I should have thought of that; I should have sent a larger-print version. “Honey, it wouldn’t have mattered,” Mom said. “He had to use the magnifying glass for all his reading, even the bigger type.”

Why didn’t I know that? Because I was far away, across the country. Because he didn’t read books on the too-rare occasions when we were together; he was focused on spending time with me. Because, while I asked about his health all the time, I never asked, specifically, how does he read these days? One more thing I hadn’t known about my father. One more thing to reproach myself for.

He did read part of my book. I think about that every day. He and my mom would sometimes read it aloud, together, chapter by chapter, working their way through it in the evenings after she got home from work. When my dad died suddenly, six days into the new year, they were still several chapters from the end.

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