The coming of age story of an award-winning translator, HOMESICK is about learning to love language in its many forms, healing through words and the promises and perils of empathy and sisterhood.
Sisters Amy and Zoe grow up in Oklahoma where they are homeschooled for an unexpected reason: Zoe suffers from debilitating and mysterious seizures, spending her childhood in hospitals as she undergoes surgeries. Meanwhile, Amy flourishes intellectually, showing an innate ability to glean a world beyond the troubles in her home life, exploring that world through languages first. Amy’s first love appears in the form of her Russian tutor Sasha, but when she enters university at the age of 15 her life changes drastically and with tragic results.
Praise for Homesick
"Jennifer Croft has written a gorgeous and stunningly visceral memoir of heartbreak and love. The lapidary sentences and the disarming images are surfaces Croft invites her readers to see into, so that a single word or photograph shimmers with layers of resonance. Croft’s brilliant meditations on translation captivate the mind and the heart, for what is translation but a radical act of love and understanding? What a rare and thrilling thing it is to experience a cellular alteration occasioned by a work of art. And make no mistake about it: HOMESICK is an incantatory and masterful work of art."
—Marisa Silver, author of MARY COIN and LITTLE NOTHING
"Jennifer Croft’s ‘Homesick’ is a marvel: audacious and lyrical in its telling, deeply moving in its wisdom. It is a memoir not only on love and its mysterious permutations, but on the vitality of language and art, which enable us to translate who we are, where we’ve been, and why we are forever homesick for that which we cannot have."
—Vu Tran, author of DRAGONFISH
"HOMESICK, a poignant and moving meditation on family, friendship, place and the desire of the self to honor and transcend these and other ties, is a cause for celebration. It turns out one of our preeminent translators has an extraordinarily powerful story—and language—all her own. "
—Thomas Chatterton Williams, author of LOSING MY COOL
"Haunting and visually poetic, Croft's book explores the interplay between words and images and the complexity of sisterly bonds with intelligence, grace, and sensitivity. Poignant, creative, and unique."
"In this marvel of a book that magically expresses the untranslatable, Croft follows Amy’s tortured path as she asks how far, and in what way, we are responsible for how loved ones’ lives play out. In her struggle to answer such questions, Amy learns the extent and limitations of love’s power."
—Kristin Morris, Foreword Reviews
"Homesick...is a coming-of-age story that includes all the 'firsts' readers might expect from a narrative about identity formation: first loss, first love, first foray toward independence. It’s a complex portrait of a young Oklahoma woman’s development of a rich and exacting interior life. It’s also a visual love letter to family, language and self-understanding, and the myriad ways in which these realms overlap and complicate one another. Like the writers W. G. Sebald and Teju Cole, who use images to supplement and contextualize ideas, Croft introduces each of her short chapters—some are only a single paragraph—with dreamlike snapshots taken by her or her mother of streets, buildings, birthday parties and everyday moments, to mysterious and engaging effect ... Homesick is the story of a singular consciousness, a strikingly personal account of a deeply troubled young girl’s efforts to absorb disaster—and to persevere—buoyed by her passion for language, its infinite permutations and enigmas ... Every page of this stunning and surprising book turns words around and around, deepening their mystery and making the reader understand that, like a photograph that (somewhat falsely) freezes a moment in time, learning to speak means discovering that words carry both truth and lies."
—Emily Rapp Black, The New York Times Book Review
"... boundary-pushing, or boundary-expanding ... Croft writes much of Homesick in this flat, precocious-child tone, using short, present-tense sentences to great effect. For balance, however, she weaves in her own photographs, each captioned with a brief, distinctly adult musing on the main narrative ... Croft moves gently, though not lightly, through this time in Amy's life. She balances depression and self-harm with growing artistic self-discovery ... As Croft's prose becomes more descriptive and complex, the photographs she includes move toward childhood, featuring images of her sister post-surgery ... Croft's photos, mixed in with her text, create continuity between memoirist and protagonist, despite their differing names. Her musings on language and occasional inclusion of Cyrillic script serve the same purpose. They make Homesick into a translator's Bildungsroman, one in which art is first a beacon, then a home."
—Lily Meyer, NPR
"To live with homesickness is to live in the beautifully bruising space of separation created by the rapture of experience. Star translator Jennifer Croft occupies this space masterfully ... Fittingly then, given its themes, Homesick is, in its broadest interpretation, the story of a word. Over the course of the memoir, Croft recasts the term just as all words are ever recast: through life experiences. She holds the word’s history, its traditional meaning of missing and melancholy and pain, and adds cafés crèmes and trains and planes and surgeries and love affairs and all the other stuff of life. Best of all, she reminds us that each word, like each life, is ever being written, and that the generative space she opens is available to all. Change is life, and Homesick is an exercise in conscious, delicate, joyful change."
—Ellie Robins, The Los Angeles Review of Books
"... a startling memoir, stylistically as well as in its content and in the unusual mind it reveals ... Disjointed, sometimes heavy with foreshadowing, lush with a love for words and language, the dual narrative of Amy and Zoe's intertwined lives and shared pain seems the right artistic choice for this twisting dual story ... astonishing in its emotional reach, its evocation of a child's discovery and a young adult's suffering and all the wonder of words. What is translatable is perfectly communicated here."
—Julia Kastner, Shelf Awareness
"A heartbreaking, vanguard, and mixed-media coming-of-age memoir."
—Courtney Eathorne, Book List