Member Reviews

Falling Back in Love with Being Human is a wonderful little collection from Canadian poet, author, and activist Kai Cheng Thom. In it, Thom writes a series of simplistic, powerful love letters. There are letters to those who deserve it, but there are just as many letters to those who may seem less deserving. This is the point. This is the goal. This is how to heal a community. This is how to heal yourself.

Thom is a self-described fierce trans femme and a woman of color, and even just those two lenses of her layered experiences position her in a place where vulnerability is expected. AAPI and transgender violence and hate are on the rise, and countless women (and men and nonbinary people and and and) face violence and hatred every day. In this collection, Thom looks beyond this vitriol to envision the person behind the poison. She imagines what might be causing this restlessness within them and meets them back with understanding and with love. Sure, there are beautiful letters to those dear to her and those she admires, but this reach across the divide and the strength to fight with her arms open and heart proudly bared are really something special. There's a vulnerability and honesty that's both tender and poignant that I think we can all use lately.

The letters are dispersed between hopeful, heartfelt, and sometimes even silly prompts to get you thinking about embodying a new kind of kindness in your own world. They each serve as a touching reminder that Thom cannot do this work alone. She spreads affection to those she holds dear and offers honest love to those who have offered much less. This take on radical self love blossoms from the page and rubs off like holding a fresh buttercup to your chin. I want to read this again and again. We need love. We need love. We need love.

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“every moment you love yourself is a moment they can never take from you.” As I started to read this remarkable book by a remarkable author, I thought that this might be my favorite line in the whole book.

Did you know that abracadabra comes from a Hebrew phrase meaning ‘through speaking I create’? Kai Cheng Thom does. She has “created” by speaking in letters.

In the introduction, Thom tells all the things she is, including poet. These are letters of poetry for lost friends, for enemies, for those in need of redemption, including the author.

The letters are raw in places, challenging in others, and joyous. Some of them are clearly written to herself, but invitational to others who need to listen in.

Don’t read this book as a self-help book (though it may help you). Don’t read this book for answers (though you may find some you weren’t looking for). Read it for the poetry of the questions. And you must read it with an open mind. Please don’t dismiss or disenfranchise this author for being who she is.

My thanks to the publisher for allowing me to read this book in advance. My opinions are my own.

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I received an e-galley of Falling Back in Love with Being Human by Kai Cheng Thom from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Written in a series of letters, Falling Back in Love with Being Human is filled with love, hope, forgiveness, humanity, pain, and emotional vulnerability. There is truly so much heart in these letters as each letter addresses different themes and people and experiences. Through the subtext, there seems to be a lot of pain that the author has experienced, and throughout all these letters, there is a sense of forgiveness and generosity of spirit to those who hurt and those who have been hurt. I felt humbled and comforted by the words and sentiments in these letters.

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Stunning. Gorgeous. Wise. Hopeful. Inspirational. I loved this book - written by a trans femme author, this book offers insightful essays with poetry and lovely suggestions for ways to take care of yourself. I learned so much and felt so much. It’s a work of art. Thanks to Random House for the copy. What a gift.

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2.5. eARC from netgalley
hmmm. I felt very fine about this. These letters were very lyrical and short, while I tend to like Thom’s essays more than her poetry. Overall this style meant it leaned more corny and less insightful than her other books.

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Thank you to Net Galley and Random House for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. This book is filled with beautiful thoughts and advice for how to see the would and finding more love and beauty along the way. The books form is short chapters with a question or suggestion at the end, a read and do type of format to encourage fall back in love with being human. As the author is transgender, some of the chapters focus specifically on being transgender but I believe there's something in every chapter that every person can learn from or alter their perspective for the better.

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Beautiful letters from the author to the most unlikely people, from transphobes to Jesus Christ to her childhood self. This short little book is filled with beauty, joy, and forgiveness. It really does make you think about our shared humanity.

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Perhaps this is my year of Kai Cheng Thom, because I read books by her for the first time earlier in the year and now I just want to keep reading more. This was probably my least favorite of the three I’ve gotten to (I Hope We Choose Love and From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea), but that’s not really an insult to this slim and moving book.

One vibe I got from this book was “What if Rupi Kaur poems were actually good?” i.e. instead of aggressively vague lines, composed in searingly specific prose poems? Another was, “What if the irreverence of Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit met the earnestness of a self-help book?” This is that book. Each of the short pieces is a prose poem intended as a letter, with a wide range of addressees—to departed friends (“to a lost sister”), to a category of people that includes Thom (“to the runaways”), to famous transphobes and other villains (“to J.K. Rowling”) to Thom herself (“to the girl trying to be a magic mirror when she is in fact a secret door”). Each letter is also paired with a brief instruction (for example, “Make a list of five good things that you frequently do for other people. Within a two-week period, do them all, at least once, for yourself”) that resonates with its themes.

Not every single one of these pieces hit for me, but those that did really did. I found myself in tears several times while reading this collection. Thom’s approach to topics like self-love, accountability, forgiveness is so generous and smart. In “dear reader,” Thom sums up the ethos of the book. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change and cancel culture, people seemed to be treating one another with a viciousness that threatened to shatter me. It wasn’t just my world that was falling apart. It was everyone’s.” And the central question of the book: “What happens when we imagine loving the people—and the parts of ourselves—that we do not believe are worthy of love?” I think I read this at the right time, because I, too, am trying to fall back in love with being human.

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What a surprise this was. It's a beautifully written sometimes painful series of letters written by the author to people she's known throughout her life- as well as to herself. She's struggled and soared with more issues than most of us can imagine. She was a sex worker-and writes to her clients. She's trans- and she writes to transphobic people. She's so many things and she's so relatable. This is all about first acknowledging and then letting go of anger but in no way is it angry. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Highly recommend.

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5 stars

This is an incredibly moving collection, which is even more impressive considering the author's spare language. My main wish, upon completion, is simply that there was more of it.

The writer intersperses short letters to a variety of characters - specific individuals, archetypes, and groups - who have impacted her experience with orders to the reader. For me, a future re-read will include following through on each of those assignments. What a lovely way to expand the reach and the encounter and to make this work as personal for the reader as it is for the writer.

I'm looking forward to incorporating infusions of this text into my classes and into my typical routine.

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Absolutely beautiful. I connected with a lot of what was written and found the reflections to be thoughtful, prompted self-reflection and thought-provoking.

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Sometimes you read something so beautifully written and wonderfully executed that it is hard to come up with the words to even describe how much you loved it. I am rendered speechless by Falling Back in Love with Being Human, truly.

Thom's collection is perfect for all the people with too much love in their chest that they don't know where to place. Kai Cheng Thom, a Chinese transgender woman, writes a deeply personal and candid group of letters to all kinds of people. Some of these people being: those who look down on her, those in her 'communities', those who are prejudiced against her, trans femme women, her many sisters and mothers, and many more. All relate to her main message of the collection about the importance of love towards every person.

To finish each poem, Thom writes reminders of things to do for yourself and for others. It really allows you to put into action the ideas that she has introduced. It is such a small detail that changed the book so much for me.

Besides being beautiful, these poems have a strong message of advocacy and love for trans women of color throughout; love is applied to everyone, but the special care and admiration applied to trans women of color is just outstanding. to a trans femme of color from a trans femme of color ancestor and to the TERFS are standouts.

If you feel like love has lost some meaning for you in the past years, I implore you to read Falling Back in Love with Being Human. I will not be forgetting 'to the johns', 'to a lost sister', 'to the confabulists', and so many others from this anytime soon. Thank you to Dial Press and NetGalley for this title.

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For years I have carried around a very worn copy of Andrea Gibson's book TAKE ME WITH YOU. I share it with students, I read it in waiting rooms, and I use it for writing prompts with students of all ages. Not long after I started reading Kai Cheng Thom's FALLING BACK IN LOVE WITH BEING HUMAN, I knew I'd found a companion book for Take Me With You. The language is gorgeous; I just want to spend time with Kai Cheng Thom's words again and again, to see how meaning shifts based on mood, events, student group, etc. I can't wait to hold this in my hands--and get it into the hands of my creative writing students!

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“there’s something sharp inside me that even the Son of God can’t smooth out. and it hurts, because i once wanted so much to be the kind of girl who was worthy of salvation, who could just let herself be saved.”

before this book, I was never one to seriously read poetry. I might tear up at a passing youtube video of spoken word, but sitting down and reading a collection of poetry never quite hit me the way I knew it was supposed to. usually, I could recognize the words as beauty in their own right, but the emotions wouldn’t bite their way through my skin like I knew they did for the author as they wrote.
but this book, my god, this book. not only did it help me to fall back in love with being human, but it also made me fall back in love with poetry. I felt so utterly scene on these pages in a way I haven’t felt seen in a long time. some gave me goosebumps, others made me cry. I took notes on passages I loved dearly so that when I have a physical copy of this book in my hand I can highlight them, feeling the words again in a different way, keeping them forever in my heart and on my shelf.

genuinely stunning work, and I’m grateful to have read it.

Thank you to Katy at The Dial Press for sending me an ARC, to NetGalley for providing a space to review it, and to Kai for writing it, seriously, thank you thank you thank you.

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This book is beautiful. A wonderful read for anyone who feels like others have attempted to dehumanize them. This would be a powerful book to use excerpts from in worship, community meetings, and transformative events.

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A thoroughly enjoyable narrative on life & self-love. Several portions of the book were difficult for me to relate to because I’ve had a basic, cisgender experience in life, but the writing was so lovely and unifying that I still enjoyed it. Between each chapter is a healing instruction for reflection or meditation — some resonated with me more than others. So many passages were beyond lovely and raw. One of my favorite passages is in their chapter ‘to the martyrs’, which touches on the beauty of simply being a human and not associating your value with your accomplishments.

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Beautifully written meditation on what it means to be human, love oneself and others, despite differences.

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This was such a lovely collection and I am thankful to have read it. The passages were filled with hope and compassion towards all people, but especially trans women and femmes. I would recommend this to people who like poetry or are new to the nonfiction genre

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Beautiful and would recommend to anyone who likes the idea of poetry but find it slightly intimidating. These letters to strangers, monsters.. other humans, etc. will pull at your heart strings and have you feeling every emotion on your journey through this book.

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This beautifully written collection of letters explores what happens when we imagine loving the people, and the parts of ourselves, that we don’t believe are worthy of love and acceptance.

I enjoyed this novel. I loved the writing, it was very lyrical, I highlighted several quotes. Some of my favorite letters were “to the deathwalkers”, “to the johns”, “to a trans femme of color child from a trans femme of color ancestor”, and “to me, from a revolutionary trans femme of color living in the distant future”. I also really enjoyed that there were activities for reflection, self love, etc. after each letter.

I’d recommend this to anyone who loves poetry! Poetry is usually hit or miss for me, so I think I would’ve appreciated it more if I was more of poetry person.

Thank you Random House and NetGalley for this arc. All opinions are my own.

TW: suicidal ideation and attempt, homophobic slurs, rape, murder

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