When My Mother
Is Most Beautiful

By Rebecca Suzuki

Book Cover
Cover art by Ryan Fark

When My Mother is Most Beautiful is a powerful love letter to a mother and to language itself, delving into complex questions of family, communication, and connection. These poems examine how languages journey across cultures through the imperfect act of translation, how they bind people together and keep them apart, and even how they could be reimagined to make a better world.

Rebecca Suzuki’s When My Mother Is Most Beautiful is a tender love letter, a cosmology of identity, and a bouquet of elegiac questions across time and space. Woven with matrilineal care, I loved how this collection fused poetry, prose, and radical translation under one glimmering moon.

Jane Wong

Author of Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City

With a poet’s precision and a warrior’s heart, Suzuki weaves a searing story of inter-generational loss and longing through her pages, wielding translation, footnotes, and landscape to forge beauty out of destruction. The poems in this book play with unanswerable questions about home, identity, belonging, and love, and we watch Suzuki break her own heart over and over again while building a world out of language where mothers become gingko trees and there are rabbits inside the moon.

Kelly McMasters

Author of The Leaving Season: A Memoir in Essays

Rebecca Suzuki’s book, When Mother Is Most Beautiful is one long searing narrative ode to the speaker’s mother, a mother the speaker both connects to and one she disconnects from. The gentle declaratives are both arresting and coy, as images barrel across the page. Ultimately, this gorgeous book tries to answer, but cannot, the question related to family, country, race, history: “How long are we made to contemplate our belonging?”

Victoria Chang

Author of The Trees Witness Everything

In Rebecca Suzuki’s When My Mother Is Most Beautiful, the author charges her readers to remember that those lost still echo in the living—whether familial mythology, ancestors, or language. The spell of the bilingual writing in Japanese and English writing systems illustrates how one interrupts the other, asking for the deferral of meaning to summon from beyond the page, the spirit of the reader’s understanding. Neither world is complete for Suzuki’s speakers without each other. This book casts its magic through rigorous hybridity of form and genre, inventing itself as the reader plods deeper and deeper into Suzuki’s affective reservoir. This entire book is a marvel, a summoning, a moon song in the night just when I needed it.

Rajiv Mohabir

Author of Whale Aria

For her memoir When My Mother Is Most Beautiful, Rebecca Suzuki mixes prose, poetry, drama, translation, haibun (a form that combines prose and haiku) to create a gorgeous hybrid and multivocal collection where even a footnote can read like flash prose. A few lines in "An Interaction at a [Convenience Store]" reveals how readers will be offered numerous reading experiences: inside the English text, there is Japanese in Japanese, Japanese romanized, and available footnotes. For me, because I understand some Japanese, there are times when I grasp the meaning and immediately become a participant in the scene. More often, I can't read the Japanese and I feel bewildered. Other readers may feel unsure or curious. And afterall, such responses are salutary. It is good for a book to elicit strong feelings. Whatever one's reading experience, Suzuki's powerful debut collection is as intimate as one's breath.

Kimiko Hahn

Author of Foreign Bodies
Rebecca Suzuki
Photo taken by Camila Hernández Solano

Rebecca Suzuki

Rebecca Suzuki is author of When My Mother Is Beautiful, winner of the Loose Translation Prize and forthcoming in winter 2023 by Hanging Loose Press. She writes creative nonfiction in a mixture of forms and languages, and her work often focuses on the themes of identity, home, family, lineage, immigration, Asian Americanism, language, translation, and more. Her work has been published in various journals and magazines. When she is not writing creative nonfiction, she is translating poems or contemporary prose from Japanese to English and teaching writing and English to college students.