Book Review: The Song Poet

The Song Poet
by Kao Kalia Yang

Just like my recent review of The Liars' Club, I'm continuing my reviews of the books I'm reading in class! For my memoir class, the second book we read this quarter was The Song Poet by Kao Kalia Yang. This book has a really interesting structure. It isn't Yang's first memoir, so she doesn't focus solely on her own story. A lot of this book is her telling her father's story, and it's really interesting to see the different ways she does this.

But before we get into the story, can I just say how much I LOVE this cover?! The tapes coming out of the cassette and winding together into the word "Song" is beyond gorgeous. I'm jealous of whoever designed this cover. It's just beautiful to look at. I know we all hear the adage, "Don't judge a book by its cover," but in reality, the cover is the first thing we see. And this one nails it!

Now onto the story itself. First, I thought the organization of this book was really cool. Like many authors, Yang divides the book into chapters, and divides the book overall into two parts. However, she takes the music theme a step further by structuring the book like a cassette tape. Part 1 of the book is the A side, and Part 2 is the B side. Each chapter referred to as a "track"; instead of Chapter 1, she has Track 1, and so on. So I found this book's structure really intriguing, especially since I love seeing stories that parallel music with narrative.

The first half of the book, or the A side of the tape, tells her father's story. Yang tells the story through her father's perspective, using first-person from her father's point of view. Then, the B side tells the story through Yang's point of view. Of course, I was super intrigued about how she gathered so much detailed information to use when relaying her father's story. She delves into his emotions and the minute details of his life in a refugee camp. It's fascinating, and I wondered if she got a recording of the story directly from him, and then translated it to English like an oral history, or if she wrote it in her own words and then got his blessing. Either way, it's really cool to ponder, and it challenges our preconceived notions about the genre of memoir.

Have you read this book? What do you think of it?

Do you think it's possible to write another person's memoir?

Let me know in the comments!



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