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Biography & Autobiography Asian & Asian American

Everything and Nothing At All

Essays

by (author) Jenny Heijun Wills

Publisher
Knopf Canada
Initial publish date
Aug 2024
Category
Asian & Asian American, Personal Memoirs, LGBT
  • Hardback

    ISBN
    9781039009844
    Publish Date
    Aug 2024
    List Price
    $34.95

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Description

From Hilary Weston Prize-winning author Jenny Heijun Wills comes a new collection of piercing, breathtaking essays on beauty, identity, and language—as well as the grey zones that exist between and beyond these notions of self.

As a transnational adoptee, Jenny Heijun Wills has spent her life navigating the spaces of race and ethnicity. As a pan-polyam individual, she occupies a liminality between family—adopted, biological, chosen—and “community;” heteronormativity and queerness; commitment and a constellation of love. As a person who self-harms to cope with mental illness, she moves between the desire to be beautiful and the urge to make herself ugly, longing for visibility while daily wishing her body would disappear. And as a parent with a lifelong eating disorder, her love language is to feed, but she finds it near-impossible to consume anything herself. These facets of Jenny’s personhood have served as both the anchors she has clung to, in the time before self-discovery and understanding, and the harsh parameters of what others now imagine she can be.

Everything and Nothing At All weaves together literary criticism, cultural context, and personal history into a staggering tapestry of knowledge. Yet Jenny is acutely aware of the cost of this knowledge: the more she uncovers, the more parts of herself she must reconcile. And though she is guided by those who came before—her Korean grandmother, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, even Emily Brontë, when read with intention—and the loves she has sewn into her life, they cannot shield her from the combined weight of this knowledge. It feels at once like everything she has been seeking in order to set herself free, and that which threatens to extinguish her, one day, into nothing at all. Devastating, illuminating, and beautifully crafted, these essays breathe life into the ambiguities and excesses of Jenny’s life, where she lingers always at the intersections and edges of identity.

About the author

Contributor Notes

JENNY HEIJUN WILLS was born in Seoul, South Korea and was adopted and raised in a white family in Southern Ontario, Canada. She is the author of Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related., which won the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Nonfiction Prize in 2019 and the Manitoba Book Awards' Best First Book Prize in 2020. She is a Fulbright Alum (Harvard) and in 2015 was Visiting Scholar at Stanford University. She holds two BA-Hons (Journalism, English), an MA, and a PhD. She currently teaches at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba.

Editorial Reviews

“What does a book look like when it subverts narrow stories of kinship and ancestry, when it refuses to pander or be pinned down and possessed, when it upends crushing dichotomies, fixed definitions, forced choices? What does a book look like when it is brave and vulnerable and knows its true worth? It looks like this. Defiantly wise. Unbeautifully beautiful. Capaciously loving. Mutinous.” —Kyo Maclear, author of Unearthing
"In Everything and Nothing At All, Jenny Heijun Wills' lyrical voice rings with clarity and sparkles with intelligence. These essays demand your careful attention, shocking you out of complacency and forcing you to re-examine, to reimagine. This stunning, challenging book is nothing short of a gift." —Alicia Elliott, author of And Then She Fell
“Unforgettable––a startling and visceral read. In Everything and Nothing At All, Jenny Heijun Wills leads us through the bright, cool antechambers of her mind to dissect, via the lens of her own experience, the fundamentals of life itself. In prose that is searing, exacting and beautiful, Wills bends time to examine what it means––and how it feels––to be seen, unseen, wanted, unwanted, loved and unloved. This book is sharp and it is living, and it is an essential and urgent document in a world still very much trying to know itself.” —Claudia Dey, author of Daughter
"With radical candor, aching beauty, and intellectual urgency, Everything and Nothing At All is a necessary masterclass in how a person can survive in spaces where one is both a conundrum and paradox, someone of multifaceted identities, navigating axes of want and need, and intricate configurations of self-love, belonging, visibility, and self-care. Jenny Heijun Wills is a virtuoso who performs a dazzling arrangement of personal history, rich cultural commentary, and probing literary criticism with staggering emotion and razor-sharp analysis. In my opinion, Wills is one of the most incisive thinkers and writers in Canada today. A formidable tour de force by a fiercely brilliant mind; this is a collection that is structurally inventive in form and exquisite in its telling." —Lindsay Wong, author of Tell Me Pleasant Things about Immortality
Unforgettable—a startling and visceral read. In Everything and Nothing At All, Jenny Heijun Wills leads us through the bright, cool antechambers of her mind to dissect, via the lens of her own experience, the fundamentals of life itself. In prose that is searing, exacting and beautiful, Wills bends time to examine what it means—and how it feels—to be seen, unseen, wanted, unwanted, loved and unloved. This book is sharp and it is living, and it is an essential and urgent document in a world still very much trying to know itself.” —Claudia Dey, author of Daughter
Everything and Nothing at All is a deeply meditative and incisive collection of essays that undertakes beauty as its motoring grammar: beauty in all of its ironies, lavishness, possibilities, and pleasures. What a gifting from acclaimed essayist Jenny Heijun Wills, for not only the breadth of honesty that she allows us into with her life—rather, the sweeping archives of her mind . . . the decadent well of her love for literature and what representation means beyond its simplified verbing.” —Joshua Whitehead, author of Making Love with the Land

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