LITANY FOR THE LONG MOMENT

Winner of the 2016 Essay Press Open Book Contest
March 2018 Rumpus Book Club Selection

The orphan at the center of Litany for the Long Moment is without homeland and without language. In an extended lyric essay, Mary-Kim Arnold attempts to claim her own linguistic, cultural, and aesthetic lineage. Born in Korea and adopted to the U.S. as a child, she explores the interconnectedness of language and identity through the lens of migration and cultural rupture. Invoking artists, writers, and thinkers –Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Francesca Woodman, Susan Sontag, among others – Litany for the Long Moment interweaves personal documents, images, and critical texts as a means to examine longing, loss, and identity.

"Among the scant effects that Mary-Kim Arnold reviews and scrutinizes from her family’s adoption file on her are aging photographs of the two-year-old she was in 1973, in a Korean orphanage and during transit to the U. S., and attendant documents that constitute “the ‘social study,’ of which I am the subject.” In this book-length essay the study is reactivated, the social is repurposed, and the subject herself has become investigator. This poignant, careful, open inquest, this record of disclosure and its transcultural complexities, reveals not only a deeply capable writer but also an expert in the natures of loss and claim. It is she who can ask, “Shouldn’t I know, after all, what I want from all this looking?” and also determine that “being visible is not the same as being seen.” —Brian Blanchfield

"Discovering Mary-Kim Arnold's writing online is one of the three or four things which, to me, justify the Internet. Now at last comes this piercing miracle of a book, at once a yearning for and interrogation of the mother she never knew, 'a language I do not speak, the life I will never have.' It's heir to Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's DICTEE and the traditional female writing known as kyubang kasa—'the lyrical voice of the inner room.' Don't forget to take your heart out of your throat when you finish." —Ed Park