Teow Lim Goh’s momentous debut poetry collection Islanders has received heaps of praise and interest from several publications since the soft launch of her book through our online bookstore.
And we’re anticipating the publication of more reviews and interviews before the official release of Islanders on July 12.
Since the lead-up to and the soft launch of Islanders in May, eight publications have given her poetry collection some beautiful and very praiseworthy ink: among them, Confluence Denver, The Fem, The Cloudy House, The Toast, PANK, At The Inkwell, and Tweetspeak Poetry, as well as an announcement of her book launch party in 303 Magazine.
In the interviews, Goh walks us through why she chose to write about Angel Island and what kept her motivated. She even shares some writing and research techniques. Reviewers were moved by her stark, spare, and penetrating verse in this work, which tells the tales of the lost voices of detained Chinese women at the Angel Island Immigration Station, their families on shore, and the 1877 San Francisco Chinatown Riot.
Taken together, the interviews and reviews provide a fascinating and comprehensive account of Goh’s work, writing, and life. They comprise a mosaic of sorts that, when pieced together, forms a portrait that will give readers a greater understanding of Islanders, including how these poems came into fruition and just how deeply they affected her, her reviewers, and others.
“I wasn’t quite prepared for the sorrow and tragedy these women experienced,” wrote Glynn Young in Tweetspeak Poetry. “Nor was I prepared for watching how, far too often, hope was transformed into fear, heartbreak, and sometimes tragedy. These are stories, told in simple language and stark reality, of what the women experienced after crossing the Pacific Ocean.”
In an interview with The Cloudy House, Goh stated: “It is my hope that Islanders transcends this history and asks larger questions on migration and belonging.”
Reviewer Benjamin Schmitt from At the Inkwell seems to believe this was accomplished. In his review of Islanders, Schmitt picked up on those themes: “On the surface, the book provides a voice to the countless female immigrants held in horrible conditions at The Angel Island Immigration Station in the early part of the twentieth century. But it is also a book concerned with how all of us, on each side of every border, is struggling through the force of history.”
Goh expands on this idea further in an interview with The Toast. She was asked to elaborate on this theme:
Nicole Chung: “What do you think Angel Island and the immigrant stories you tell in your poems have to teach us about our current immigration system and the surrounding debate?”
Goh: “I find that when we talk about politics, we often talk about values and beliefs, as if what matters are our principles and the positions we take, instead of the repercussions our laws and institutions have on the people we don’t see. … Our politics shape the ways we live and love.”
In The Cloudy House interview, Goh also discussed the genesis of the book and her writing process including challenges she overcame along the way: “When I saw the poems on Angel Island, I knew I was going to write about them, but it took another three years before I figured out what I had to say. … I started with the idea to reclaim the women’s voices. I showed early poems in a workshop and a friend suggested writing from the point of view of the women’s families on shore and the staff at Angel Island.”
“… I felt the desolation and despair in the words. I saw that art is a means of survival. In a way, the Angel Island poems gave me permission to be a writer,” Goh said in an interview in The Fem.
Goh will be reading from her work at BookBar at 4280 Tennyson Street in Denver on Saturday, June 4 at 5:30 p.m. She will also be reading at Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Café at 1301 Pennsylvania Avenue on Saturday, June 11 at 2 p.m.
Islanders can be purchased at Conundrum’s online bookstore.
Article by Shannon Wheeler, an editorial contributor for Conundrum Press, and Stephen J. McConnell, director of marketing and content for Conundrum Press. Golden, Colorado-based Conundrum Press publishes fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction, focusing primarily on authors who live in the Rocky Mountain region. We are committed to their success.