Dictée, by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha

The groundbreaking and ultimately powerful mixed-media prose-poetry work that explores the depths and transcendence of suffering, history, love and survival. Cha tells of Korea’s troubled modern history and one of its martyrs, Yu Guan Soo, along with Joan of Arc, her own mother, and the pain and sacrifice (Catholic) of women who live in suffering. Structured around nine Greek heroines, representative of literary forms, Cha suffuses associative poetry, story narration, artwork, photography and calligraphy into a whole that instills tragedy, injustice, loss and silence, and raises questions about the lauded culture of martyrdom around suffering. Many will not find this easy to read, but it’s an important literary work and essential reading for Korean American literary studies.

Recently reread. Originally published 1982, shortly before Cha was murdered by a stranger at age 31.