Book Review: The Youngest Light by Jane Chin
Memoir, it seems, is quickly becoming one of the most popular niches in the indie publishing scene. I’ve received several memoirs to review lately. The Youngest Light by Jane Chin quite stands out by incorporating dreams and poetry, rich with nature and animal symbolism into a haunting memoir of living through and over-coming child abuse. Starting with her earliest childhood in Taiwan and following her family’s immigration first to Saudi Arabia and then to the United States. The memoir is not really chronological. It moves along from theme to theme, criss-crossing the years of Chin’s life to date.
Chin’s prose is often cool, even reportorial as she depicts both physical and emotional abuse as a child and a complicated relationship with parents who come across not as unfeeling monsters but as complicated people who genuinely love their daughter and struggle both with their own demons and with a pattern of abuse they themselves experienced as children. Indeed, I feel Chin’s biggest success in The Youngest Light may be in her skillful portrayal of how abuse is perpetuated generation after generation, and her bold unambiguous pledge to have this cycle stop with her. Where the narrative sections come across so very matter-0f-fact, the dreams and poems are vividly emotional and create a world that is in sharp contrast to the narrative.
Child abuse is not an easy subject to write or to read about. While The Youngest Light is a short book, I did not find it to be quick or easy reading. It was , honestly, the sort of volume where you read a few pages, set the book aside and contemplate what you have read– for an hour or a day or more as you go on about your life, then return to read a bit more and set the book aside as you contemplate its lessons. For anyone who experienced abuse as a child and struggles to break the cycle of abuse as an adult, The Youngest Light is Very Highly Recommended.