NY Times Reviews Lisa Ko’s “Memory Piece”

For Girlhood Friends, the Tech Revolution Is a Dividing Line

In Lisa Ko’s adventurous novel “Memory Piece,” youthful exploration takes a dark turn for an artist, an activist and a web developer.

By Alexandra Jacobs


Before doomscrolling, what did we do with all that spare time? Sometimes it’s difficult to recall. And some people will never know.

Lisa Ko’s socially astute and formally innovative second novel, “Memory Piece,” takes readers back to the dawn of the internet: when its hot glow was lurking just below the horizon and we thought we had the measure of its power, before it became the very light by which we see.

Her first novel, “The Leavers,” a finalist for the National Book Award, was about a Chinese American boy seemingly abandoned by his mother; his drift after being adopted by an overbearing white couple; and her thwarted bid for freedom. “Memory Piece,” by contrast, is giddy with women’s liberation, closely following three Asian American friends who meet as girls at a Fourth of July barbecue, come of age when the country was still meting out history in neat decade-long chunks — “even the nine in 1990s felt cold and steely,” a character correctly notes — and all make unconventional life choices. A marriage plot this is not.

The book is framed by Giselle Chin, an artist of the Marina Abramovic school who herself resists any framing. Giselle’s notable works include living secretly in a room at the Paramus Park shopping center in New Jersey for a year (“Mall Piece”) wandering around Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery in white clothing for half a dozen menstrual cycles (“Blood Piece”); and, for the project that gives the book its title, handwriting memories for days and then burning the pages in public. She is devoted to her calling and pragmatic in her relationships, dating a past-his-prime artist from a rich family. Read the full review at the New York Times.

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