A Nuclear Family

, Author
April Naoko Heck
MFA
Upset Press, 2014

UpSet Press is pleased to announce the release of A Nuclear Family, April Naoko Heck’s debut book of poetry. As we approach the 70-year anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb, Heck’s timely collection explores the brink of creation and annihilation — the dawning of the nuclear age and the shaping of Japanese American identity within the shadows of WWII.

On August 6, 1945, in Hiroshima prefecture, Heck’s great-grandmother walked in a field 2.5 miles away from the blast’s epicenter. Meanwhile, 20 miles away, in the town of Otake, Heck’s mother was in the womb of her mother, presumably safe from the impending nuclear fallout.

Drawing from conversations with family members and historical research, Heck traces the footsteps of her great-grandmother, and then turns her attention westward to her literal nuclear family in poems about her Caucasian American father’s job at a nuclear power plant, as well as his later illness and passing.

As Kimiko Hahn discerns for us, “Plain horror courses beneath the surface of many of these poems — and that intensity issues from the history we know and the history we could not know because A Nuclear Family really is a poetry-memoir. And such a collection makes me realize how without art, we only have dry records. With April Naoko Heck’s poetry, we now have the burning horse, white light and black rain, a skull pulverized for medicine, a hundred Canada geese, the Ponce de Leon Motel, a frozen lake. And where horror subsides, there is a lovely tranquility. Read these poems and trust this history.”