My earliest memory of Jenny Liou is of meeting her in graduate school at UC Irvine. We hung out in the trailer park on campus where all the writing graduate students lived, in a tangle of vintage Airstreams and chicken coops. I remember her intensity in graduate seminars. She brought a special insight and force to bear on interpreting the language. Both of us went from MFAs in writing to the graduate program in literature, and then braved the academic job market. When she invited me to see her fight in a mixed martial arts cage fight, at a casino in the Inland Empire, I thought: of course. Of course a match where you could see your opponent, where no one could casually ruin your career behind your back, was appealing. Of course, if you had Jenny’s drive and discipline, you would choose a cage where when the bell rang, you knew if you had won or lost. I also wasn’t surprised that Jenny Liou, of all the passionate writers I knew, had followed her interest in martial arts all the way through.
Muscle Memory is a book about prizefighting and training, but also about gardening and becoming a mother. We throw the word “identity” around a lot these days, but Jenny’s poetry, about family and “the diasporic sweep of Chinese American history,” takes nothing for granted. She delves deep into the hard-to-categorize experiences that make us who we are. Who do we fight with, and how, and why?
—Editor-in-Chief Michelle Chihara
Jenny Liou (born 1983) is an English professor at Pierce College and a retired professional cage fighter. She lives and writes in Covington, Washington.
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