The Grave on the Wall

The Grave on the Wall

The Grave on the Wall wins the 2020 PEN Open Book Award!
Mar 3, 2020

Judges' citation: "Brandon Shimoda’s The Grave on the Wall is a wondrous feat of memory work, reportage, and writing. In a series of pilgrimages to landscapes on both sides of the Pacific Ocean—deserts, graveyards, deserted villages—Shimoda reconstructs the many journeys of his Japanese-American family. He begins with a search for his grandfather’s roots, and unfolds an intimate story of longing and reinvention. Gradually, a picture emerges of the tenacity and pain endured by a people scattered around the globe by chance, by need, and by their own hopes and ambitions. Written with a poet’s ear for lyricism, The Grave on the Wall is a meditation of the act of remembering, containing within its pages the plots of many novels and the haunting imagery of dreams. Brandon Shimoda has penned a beautiful and powerful work of nonfiction, while remaining unafraid to confront the injustice and state-supported acts of violence at the center of his tale."

Review in Willamette Week
Jul 15, 2020

"The Grave on the Wall is haunted, which is to say that the history it unsettles comes alive and happens all at once. Brandon stares into everything with his inexhaustible attention, into a history of war and imperialism, a half-told family history of photographs and immigration documents—a documentary, a documentary of the documentary—and at the center of it, he stares into the grave on a wall, a photograph of a man wearing a white bra and slip, his grandfather, Midori, who was forced into detention at Fort Missoula during the United States' brutal campaign to punish and test the allegiances of its own Japanese American citizens. Have you ever really looked at someone as they really look at a photograph? When you read this book, you really, really look at someone as they really look at a photograph. It is a portal for the ghost of a ghost, which only knows to come closer. It's not just a document from which Brandon untangles the dead, but it's a portal through which the ghosts can show themselves to him. To exchange that kind of attention between the living and the dead is love."—Zachary Schomburg

"Author Brandon Shimoda reflects on trauma, pilgrimages, and family history"
Jul 16, 2020

Brandon Shimoda interviewed about The Grave on the Wall by Vince Schleitwiler.

Review in Asian American Literature Fans
Oct 22, 2020

"When you read toward the ending of Grave on the Wall the many writers that inspired Shimoda, you're not surprised to see so many Asian American women writers, including but not limited to Don Mee Choi, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Karen Tei Yamashita, Maxine Hong Kingston. Shimoda’s work certainly resonates alongside the experimental, multi-genre works of these writers. A truly immersive experience."—Jacob Ballew

Review in Rain Taxi
Mar 12, 2020

"Brandon Shimoda seeks to get closer to his grandfather via a series of pilgrimages to . . .  ritual graves––by walking into photographs, into a complex history, into the mystery which beckons."––William Shultz

Review in The Believer
Jan 31, 2020

"In Shimoda's triumph of textural prose, he embarks upon a pilgrimage to trace the history of his grandfather Midori’s life. He finds himself instead in fluctuating spaces of the past and the present: between Japanese internment camps and pretty graveyards, FBI files and the remains of Hiroshima. In moments of death and destruction, there is no symbolism but instead 'a sunset world' where hell is real. Shimoda’s journey through the residue of history, dream, and archive similarly negates metaphor; his writing unspools into a realm where image is rendered purely material and becomes so brittle it crumbles at the touch. With him, we circle the void, chasing facts that have been forever lost and suffering that will never find purpose. The Grave on the Wall is a passage of aching nostalgia and relentless assembly out of which something more important than objective truth is conjured—a ritual frisson, a veracity of spirit. I am grateful to have traveled along."––Trisha Low 

The Grave on the Wall named a finalist for the PEN Open Book Award
Jan 28, 2020

Review in Full Stop
Jan 17, 2020

"Brandon Shimoda made a book of prose and it is astonishing . . . The Grave among other things reads as a feat to me, as if something truly massive were fit into two hundred pages, without compromise or shortcut or disassembly or surgery. As if an impossible and entire monolith were fit between the covers. I imagine a thoughtfully planed beam of hardwood from a temple otherwise destroyed. Both locating and dislocating us, the marvel of its accomplishment hovers ominous and irreducible, a whole and deep act or care."––Nabil Kashyap

Review in Nichi Bei Weekly
Jan 1, 2020

"The Grave on the Wall, with its haunting search for identity, is an excellent place to plunge into Shimoda's body of work where lines may resonate in the reader's heart, deeper than one imagined it could go."––Patricia Wakida

"The Booksellers' Year in Reading: Part Two"
Dec 27, 2019

"Then there was the superb The Grave on the Wall by Brandon Shimoda (City Lights), an elegy to his grandfather, moving between personal grief and historical trauma. It reminded me of Sebald, an effect enhanced by the haunting black and white photos interspersed throughout."––Christopher Phipps

- Christopher Phipps

"Ghosts of the Golden Pavilion"
Dec 18, 2019

The chapter "The Temple of the Golden Pavilion" from The Grave on the Wall excerpted in Tricycle.

- Brandon Shimoda

The Grave on the Wall Longlisted for 2020 PEN America Open Book Award
Dec 16, 2019

"Not a Shadow, but an Echo: A Conversation with Brandon Shimoda"
Dec 16, 2019

Brandon Shimoda interviewed about The Grave on the Wall and more in The Adroit Journal.

- Geoff Martin

"Best of 2019: Nonfiction Books"
Dec 12, 2019

The Grave on the Wall listed on this "best of 2019" roundup of nonfiction books.

"A Year in Reading: Marcos Gonsalez"
Dec 5, 2019

The Grave on the Wall included in this list by Marcos Gonsalez.

"The Grave on the Wall by Brandon Shimoda gave me a poetic and stunning memoir about his search to find out more about his grandfather who lived through Japanese internment in the United States. I continue to recommend this book to everyone and anyone."

- Marcos Gonsalez

"The Fruits of Suffering"
Sep 1, 2019

An excerpt from The Grave on the Wall is published in Harper's September 2019 issue.

- Brandon Shimoda

"We Have Been Here Before"
Aug 21, 2019

Op-ed by Brandon Shimoda published in The Nation, discussing how Japanese American incarceration are the blueprint for today's migrant detention camps.

- Brandon Shimoda

Brandon Shimoda interviewed for Tin House's Between the Covers
Aug 19, 2019

In conversation with David Naimon.

- David Naimon and Brandon Shimoda

Review in New Sinews
Oct 30, 2019

"An ancestral memoir fluttering with airy exactitude between spells of dream-journal and travelogue, self-appraising photo-compendium and documentary testament to the obfuscation of the facts of Japanese-American incarceration during the second World War, The Grave on The Wall is also a kind of dirge lamenting the broader dirge-scape. . . . The Grave on The Wall crawls over and across itself via a kind timeliness-beyond-temporality. Indeed, there is even something of an aptly preemptive nostalgia for our shared future embedded in The Grave on The Wall's forecast for communal memory."––Steve Barbaro

Review in High Country News
Oct 30, 2019

"Shimoda travels to places from Midori's life to tell not just the story of his grandfather, but also of himself and of the racist history that, then as now, has damaged families and excluded many from citizenship. Along the way he sees much that has been irredeemably ground to dust. His book is a memorable and memorializing work that depicts the pain of trying to recover what can never be regained, from lost lives to a lost sense of home that transcends generations."––Abby Manzella

"Understanding Japanese Americans and living history"
Sep 18, 2019

Brandon Shimoda interviewed in Tucson Weekly.

- Vianney Cardenas

"Q&A with Brandon Shimoda: 'The Grave on the Wall' and Writing with Ghosts"
Sep 12, 2019

Interview with Brandon Shimoda with ZYZZYVA Magazine.

- Scout Turkel

"Reading with . . . Brandon Shimoda"
Sep 4, 2019

Brandon Shimoda appears in Shelf-Awareness's interview series.

- Brandon Shimoda

"Hiroshima Library: A Date with History"
Jul 31, 2019

Brandon Shimoda's Hiroshima Library project in Bellingham, WA is profiled.

- Amy Kepferle

"Diary: Brandon Shimoda, A House That No Longer Exists"
Sep 2, 2019

An excerpt from The Grave on the Wall appears in Book Post

Review in Shelf Awareness (Starred Review)
Aug 19, 2019

"Relying on his skills as a poet, Shimoda enhances the elusive details of [his grandfather's] life with his own journeys of discovery, creating an impressive prose debut. The compelling result is a meditative memoir-of-sorts about his grandfather, his extended family, his ancestral heritage, and ultimately himself as a 21st-century Japanese American. . . . Through his expansive pursuit, Shimoda alchemizes his family's recollections and confessions, his country's trespasses, his legacy of loss, into elegant, haunting testimony."––Terry Hong

Review in Booklist (Starred Review)
Aug 28, 2019

"Shimoda brings his poetic lyricism to this moving and elegant memoir, the structure of which reflects the fragmentation of memories. [Shimoda] looks for his grandfather's [Midori's] origin story in Nakanose, a town near Hiroshima that may no longer be whole; pieces together the ugly history of the U.S. internment camps, and wrestles with the remove at which he views his grandfather toward the sunset of his life. It is at once wistful and devastating to see Midori's life come full circle . . . In between is a life with tragedy, love, and the horrors unleashed by the atomic bomb."––Poornima Apte

Excerpt published in the Paris Review
Aug 12, 2019
- Brandon Shimoda

"#ColorlinesReads: 6 Books That Explore How We Construct Our Identities"
Aug 12, 2019

The Grave on the Wall appears on this reading list in Colorlines.

- Catherine Lizette Gonzalez

Chapter one of The Grave on the Wall excerpted in AAWW's blog The Margins
Aug 8, 2019
- Brandon Shimoda

"5 Artists Who Explore Japanese-American Incarceration and Internment"
Aug 8, 2019

A list of 5 artists whose work influenced Brandon Shimoda's ongoing project of "reporting directly from or proliferating the ruins of Japanese-American incarceration."

- Brandon Shimoda

"Finding Photos of My Grandfather in a Japanese Internment Camp"
Jul 30, 2019

An except from The Grave on the Wall published in Lit Hub.

- Brandon Shimoda

"Lit Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2019, Part 2"
Jul 9, 2019

The Grave on the Wall appears on this list of most anticipated books of the year.

"In this memoir, Shimoda, an American poet of Japanese descent, tells the story of his family, starting with his grandfather, who was transformed into an 'enemy alien' by World War II; and in doing so, tells a universal story of the horrors of war both physical and emotional, and the tensions that linger among people long after the wars are over. "Sometimes a work of art functions as a dream,' wrote Myriam Gurba. 'At other times, a work of art functions as a conscience. In the tradition of Juan Rulfo's Pedro Páramo, Brandon Shimoda’s The Grave on the Wall is both. It is also the type of fragmented reckoning only America could instigate.'"––Emily Temple

Review in Frieze
Jun 13, 2019

"Intergenerational knowledge must be actively sought, researched and retrieved––it's not a given. But while attentive to the work of remembering, Shimoda also writes through the slipperier terrain of experiencing one's ancestry in the present, never fully manifest but felt and lived."––Steven Zultanski

Review in Kirkus Reviews
Jun 11, 2019

"[I]lluminates the tensions that exploded with World War II and the aftershocks within his family. . . . Shimoda wades through memories and dreams; lives and graves that have no names documented; unspeakable horrors committed by the country where his grandfather lived on the people of his native country; and the attempts to memorialize what is too graphically terrible to remember. By the end, writes the author, 'I was just learning how to see.' A memoir of sorts that blurs the boundary between the personal and the universal."

Bookseller Endorsement

"Brandon Shimoda's The Grave on the Wall is a brilliant book that lands somewhere between a memoir and essay. It dances dazzlingly between these modes with the brilliant and oblique logic of a great poem. . . .  Using his family as a cypher, Shimoda investigates the xenophobia of the United States, the cruel and arbitrary nature of nations and borders, and the irreconcilable horror of the atomic bomb and Japanese internment camps. We see how the narratives of families is also that of politics. The Grave on the Wall says so much so quietly about our current moment and the enormous grandeur and terror of history that we all must contend with."––Simon Crafts, Alley Cat Bookshop, San Francisco

Excerpt in Nat.Brut
Jun 1, 2019

A chapter from The Grave on the Wall, "The Woman in the Well," is published in the spring issue of Nat.Brut.

- Brandon Shimoda

"The (Ongoing) Ruins of Japanese-American Incarceration: Thirty Years After the Civil Liberties Act of 1988."
Mar 15, 2018

Brandon Shimoda's lecture at Fairhaven College.