BOOKS

HOW TO BUILD A HOUSE

(forthcoming May 2018)

Winner of the 2017 Swan Scythe Press Chapbook Contest

Liang_Cover (4)

“Both a song of survival and a summoning of ghosts, “How to Build A House” is not only a record but a recovery, a shipyard of stories that reckon with what it means to be displaced, to haunt your own home. In this reclamation of history and lineage, a “house” is more than a place: it’s a body, a blade edge, a belonging to the wounds that birthed us. With hunger and tenderness, Liang writes the Taiwan Strait as a specter, a gutter of grief.  But he also shows us where loss makes its second life in the light. I am grateful for this haunting, for the way Liang sets all maps ablaze and rebuilds a home from the ashes. I belong to this book like a bloodline. When Liang asks, “When is a boat considered an island,” he answers by writing migration as mother tongue, showing us that we are our own homelands.”

– Kristin Chang

“Kyle Liang’s How To Build a House is the most startlingly composed first book I’ve read in years, a remarkably balanced, mature collection of work by a young poet all of twenty-two years old. The title speaks just as much to the poet’s precocious confidence about his craft—how to make a home for yourself and your loved ones in language—as it does to his personal journey to forge a place for himself in America that honors both his own self-realization and his Chinese familial and cultural history. The quality that stands out most in these poems is tenderness, in the astonishing portraits of the parents and grandparents and in the mournful depictions of the alienated Chinese American self, stranded between languages and cultural expectations: ‘Goodnight, sixth-grade self. / We’ll play more games tomorrow // and maybe next time, / you won’t want to be the cowboy.’ In a country where the Asian American male is all but invisible in media culture (except when ludicrously stereotyped) and where such a figure is still grossly underrepresented and underread in American letters, Kyle Liang gives us a new, vital presence, one with the political savvy to break down the ‘etymology’ of oppression; the prosodic chops to push past familiar Asian American tropes and explode preconceptions about what an Asian American poem can be; and a big enough heart to make us actually care. We’ll be hearing from this poet for a long time to come.”

– Jason Koo