Obit: Poems by Victoria Chang – A Review

Obit Victoria Chang

Obit: Poems by Victoria Chang
Poetry | Contemporary | Memoir
Published by Copper Canyon Press
Released April 7th, 2020
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

This was not an easy book to read.

Obit is a deeply personal collection of poems written by Victoria Chang about her grief over her mother’s illness and subsequent death along with her father’s stroke and dementia. It’s moving and somber. I had planned on reading this in a single sitting, but had to put it down and walk away a few times before I could read further.

victoria chang
Victoria Chang

Told in the form of short obituaries, she tackles the way grief makes you feel, the struggle of taking care of aging and sick parents, explaining grief to your children, and so much more.

One of the reasons I struggled so much with this collection is due to the death of my own mother back in 2010. Even a decade later (which honestly feels unreal), the grief is still a raw wound. These poems opened that wound and made me feel some of the same pain I felt all those years ago.

“Subject Matter” is one of my favorite poems:

Subject Matter – always dies, what
we are left with is architecture, form,
sound, all in a room, darkened, a few
chairs unarranged. The door is locked
from the inside. But still, subject
matter breaks in and all the others rise.
My mother’s death is not her story. My
father’s stroke is not his story. I am
not my mother’s story, not my father’s
story. But there is a meeting place that
is hidden, one that holds all the maps
toward indifference. Can pain be
separated from subject matter? Can
subject matter take flight and lose its
way, peck on another tree? How do
you walk heavily with subject matter
on your back, without trampling all the
meadows?

Thanks to the publisher for the permission to reprint this poem. 

There were a few poems in this collection that didn’t speak to me, but that’s true of any collection. It’s hard for me to recommend this collection to everyone because it is difficult. If you can handle it though, it’s a beautifully crafted and honest collection.




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Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty – A Review

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs Caitlin Doughty

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death by Caitlin Doughty
Nonfiction | Science | Humor
Published by W. W. Norton Company
Released 10 September 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

“We can’t make death fun, but we can make learning about it fun. Death is science and history, art and literature. It bridges every culture and unites the whole of humanity!”

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love the work that Caitlin Doughty does to promote death-positivity. Like many people, I found her via her incredible YouTube channel, Ask a Mortician (which you should definitely go binge-watch after reading this post). Her non-fiction books have been on my radar since the first, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, was published in 2014. I’m baffled that I haven’t read her books yet since, again, I’m a huge fan.

Having recently gotten in the mood to try audiobooks again, I found the audiobook version of Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? on Scribd, narrated by the author herself. I’ll probably buy the physical book and re-read it at some point, but the audiobook is a perfect way to take the information in. Caitlin’s personality shines through so much, and the listening experience is an absolute delight.

Caitlin Doughty.jpg
Caitlin Doughty

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? is a collection of questions from children about death. The questions are both profound, important, and, in many cases, hilarious. Caitlin’s answers are likewise perfect, relatable, and, well, hilarious. Are you a fan of light, yet very dark, humor? You’ll love this book.

The questions that Doughty answers in this book range from things like “What would happen if I swallow popcorn kernels before I die and then get cremated?” to “What happens to astronaut bodies in space?” My favorite question (and largest disappointment) was her answer to whether it’s okay and possible to have a “Viking” funeral. You know, laying the body on a small boat and having someone epically shoot a flaming arrow at it, and then watching as the body burns away. Not gonna lie – that was pretty much how I wanted my body disposed of upon death. Spoiler: it’s not possible. Whomp whomp. 

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Although the questions come from children, the book is appropriate for readers of all ages. There were certainly times when I wished that the answers had been longer and explained in more detail, but Doughty has plenty of detailed videos, and two other books, for that. Part of the charm of Will My Cat Eat My Eyeball? is its accessibility. Not everyone wants a ton of detail on decay and funerary practices, so for those people something lighter like this is a great introduction to the topic.

I’m sure there are people that aren’t going to agree with this opinion, but I feel that it’s really important to embrace death and frame it in a positive way. As I mentioned before, that’s something that Caitlin Doughty specializes in, but I want to emphasize it again. I’m unsure if this is true in other countries around the world, but in America, it seems as though people actively avoid thinking about death.

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I get it – no one wants to think about something as scary as death. Guess what, though? It’s inevitable. By not growing up in a death-positive environment, it makes grief so much harder to handle. I’m not saying that death will ever be easy because it won’t. Losing the people you love is hard. All I’m saying is that if, as a culture, we become more aware of dying, death, and funeral processes, it would be easier to know what’s ahead of us.

If you’re looking for answers to your burning death questions, Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs is the perfect place to start. Whether you read it physically or listen to the amazing audiobook, you’ll find yourself laughing at Caitlin’s infectious personality and learning about corpse disposal at the same time. Never thought you’d do that, huh?


Have you read any of Caitlin Doughty’s books? What are your thoughts? Let me know down in the comments!




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