National Winner of the 2015 Hillary Gravendyk Prize

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Kenji C. Liu’s Map of an Onion is a remarkable debut. It’s an anti-colonial mapping that peels away the painful layers of identity, citizenship, and loss. At its core are the body and skin marked by domination, immigration, and violence. They speak through Liu’s defiant, splintered tongue that lashes out at the grammar of colonizing power.

—DON MEE CHOI, author of The Morning News is Exciting and Hardly War

View other videos of poems from Map of an Onion

Praise for Map of an Onion from  JUAN FELIPE HERRERA, Poet Laureate of the United States:

Colony, conquest, citizenship, language, place – the almost infinite severances of power and culture, ultimately, a “paper cut theater.” Here, Kenji lays out the splicing of the “onion,” these blistering, translucent stacks of report, bilingual document, letters, notes, “found” materials and calcified fever-cells. These are investigations, surgeries, all crossing attempts to map some kind of in-between set of scars and wounds of “advice and consolation.” Applaud it for its tough, serious, exacting pen and eye and mind, for its howl, its losses, findings and knife-thin metaphysical peeling gestures. I am in true awe of Kenji’s writing and poetics. Here, Liu gives us a 21st century read at “luminescent level.” A groundbreaking giant, this collection.

KPFK Bibliocracy
KPFK interview with Kenji C. Liu
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Kenji Liu has written a beautiful, deeply felt book that is both ‘fauna’ and ‘tendon’: at once. A ‘tangerine afternoon.’ How the mouth of the ghost receives ‘a book, then a flag.’ A boy sleeps then wakes on the ‘long days.’ How the stars redden above him. Is the body a ‘tuning fork’? Asking these questions, Liu takes us across the ‘soaked distance between disasters.’ Someone asks: ‘What did you leave at the gate?’ This breathing and dreaming, deep inside a book, become the characteristics of a writing that locates itself only as it is being written. I am very moved by Liu’s remarkable sensing into located-ness as something that doesn’t always produce sensation or even memory. To write what is ‘cancelled’ as much as the bright flare at the periphery of vision. ‘Shame is an aspect of creation.’ Yes. Regimes, cheap beer, and love: yes. I am honored to write in support of his work.

—BHANU KAPIL, author of Schizophrene