Mary-Kim Arnold

Litany for the Long Moment

Essay Press 2018

New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Asian American StudiesNew Books in LiteratureNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books Network August 7, 2018 Eric LeMay

In 1974, a two-year old Korean girl named Mi Jin Kim was sent from the country and culture of her birth to the United...

In 1974, a two-year old Korean girl named Mi Jin Kim was sent from the country and culture of her birth to the United States, where she was adopted by a man and woman who would become her American parents and where she would become the artist and writer Mary-Kim Arnold. Her new book, Litany for the Long Moment (Essay Press, 2018), is her attempt to grapple with that history and its aftermath, to understand the experience of that girl she once was and how that girl shaped the woman she would become. Arnold writes:

“I will never know for certain what transpired in those first two years of my life. I only know that I am continually drawn back, tethered to the whispy, blurred possibilities of the mother I will never know, a language I do not speak, the life I will never have.”

Through a dazzling range of literary strategies, from the use of archival documents and family photographs to primers on the Korean language and the work of her fellow Korean-American artists, Arnold explores these wispy, blurred possibilities. She takes us into her need to know this never-realized self and this life she never lived. By stunning and poignant turns, her book reveals the complexities of the lives we do end up living, the hauntings that make us who we are, and the unexpected way in which great art and artists pull us apart and pieces us back together.

And the book has an excellent trailer, which you can find here.


Eric LeMay is on the creative writing faculty at Ohio University. His work ranges from food writing to electronic literature. He is the author of three books, most recently In Praise of Nothing: Essay, Memoir, and Experiments (Emergency Press, 2014). He can be reached at e[email protected].

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