From From

Finalist, National Book Awards 2023 for Poetry

ISBN 9781644452219
Graywolf Press
Author photo of Monica Youn. (Photo credit: Beowulf Sheehan)
Monica Youn

Monica Youn grew up in Houston, the daughter of Korean immigrants, and now splits her time between Brooklyn and Southern California, where she is an Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Irvine. Her previous poetry collections are Blackacre, Ignatz, and Barter. More about this author >

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From the publisher:

“Where are you from… ? No—where are you from from?” It’s a question every Asian American gets asked as part of an incessant chorus saying you’ll never belong here, you’re a perpetual foreigner, you’ll always be seen as an alien, an object, or a threat.

Monica Youn’s From From brilliantly evokes the conflicted consciousness of deracination. If you have no core of “authenticity,” no experience of your so-called homeland, how do you piece together an Asian American identity out of Westerners’ ideas about Asians? Your sense of yourself is part stereotype, part aspiration, part guilt. In this dazzling collection, one sequence deconstructs the sounds and letters of the word “deracinations” to create a sonic landscape of micro- and macroaggressions, assimilation, and self-doubt. A kaleidoscopic personal essay explores the racial positioning of Asian Americans and the epidemic of anti-Asian hate. Several poems titled “Study of Two Figures” anatomize and dissect the Asian Midas the striving, nouveau-riche father; Dr. Seuss and the imaginary daughter Chrysanthemum-Pearl he invented while authoring his anti-Japanese propaganda campaign; Pasiphaë, mother of the minotaur, and Sado, the eighteenth-century Korean prince, both condemned to containers allegorical and actual.

Judges Citation

Combining keen intellect and sometimes subtle, sometimes exuberant playfulness, Monica Youn’s From From turns the roots and realities of anti-Asian bigotry into an occasion for her imagination to move, if not quite freely, then with fantastic range. Changing the way we imagine authority, From From is that rare thing—a good read with great depth, a book that gives lasting pleasure without ever looking away from the sources of pain.


Monica Youn at the 2023 National Book Awards Finalist Reading