Seeking Ghosts

Seeing Ghosts | Book Review

How the memoirs of a Chinese American author, haunted by her parents, can help us relate to our own families

There’s something familiar about Seeing Ghosts, Kat Chow’s brave new memoir. It’s not just because it takes this Shenzhen-dwelling reviewer to Guangzhou, where her father grew up before expatriating to the US via Hong Kong. It’s not just the description of rising into the middle class in a 1980s and ’90s America that still feels like recent history.

Instead, it’s the candid, vividly detailed scenes of family life that remind me of my own mother and father. I think many readers will feel the same.

Chow’s writing stirs a memory of my own from high school. I’m chatting with my mother, who is seated at the kitchen table, describing a homework assignment to write about what influenced me. Something cautious, hopeful, and anxious widens in her eyes as she asks if I’ll write about her. Suddenly bashful, I reply that I don’t know.

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Seeing Ghosts | Book Review is a story from our issue, “Upstaged.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Adam Robbins

Adam Robbins is a writer and editor based in China since 2014, with work appearing in The World of Chinese, NewsChina, City Weekend, and That’s Shenzhen, along with his recently published Plagueworld Chronicles: Day by Day Through the 2020 Pandemic with an American Locked Down in China. This peripatetic Yankee is originally from a small town in Maine, educated at Harvard College, and worked in Minnesota for ten years to help achieve marriage equality. He’s already enjoyed his ten minutes of fame, on a 2011 episode of The Daily Show, and now looks forward to baking at home. He’s lived and worked in Boston, Austin, Minneapolis, Taipei, and Beijing before moving to Shenzhen with his husband.

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