‘Trafficking In Nostalgia: Essays From Memory’ By Exie Abola [Book Review]

trafficking in nostalgia exie abola goodreads
Image: Goodreads

I am into anything nostalgic. In fact, I have been thinking a lot about my own writing these past few months and I’ve realized that nostalgia has been my thing. I guess I just like talking about the past, especially those days when life seems simpler. I like to discuss painful memories as well, process and reframe them in such a way that they can give me new insights into life and beyond.

No wonder, when I came across Exie Abola’s “Trafficking In Nostalgia: Essays From Memory” when I was looking for books to buy during the Aklatan Sale on Shopee last August, I added it to my cart without even thinking twice. I also learned that his essay “Many Mansions,” which we discussed in a creative nonfiction class was also included in the very same collection. A big plus, I thought.

The book didn’t disappoint at all! If it weren’t for chores and other responsibilities here at home, I would have definitely read it in one sitting. Apart from being nostalgic, its language was also beautiful. I really cherished every sentence in it.

“Many Mansions” remained my top favorite after reading the entire book. I think it’s a piece I just won’t outgrow. In fact, I appreciated it more now. I guess maturity has just allowed me to have a better grasp of some ideas presented in the text that I kind of missed when I first read it many years ago. 

I particularly loved this part of the essay:

Houses provided us the necessary certainties—somewhere to come home to where you’d find your family, your things, a hot dinner, a bed or a good couch. Write to me here. Call me at this number. But I’ve changed addresses and phone numbers enough times to know better. Perhaps that’s what houses are really about: the fundamental uncertainty of life, the slowly learned fact that the reference points by which we draw our maps and chart our course are ever shifting, and a life’s cartography is never quite done.

But of course, I also fell in love with other pieces in the collection, particularly “At War And At Peace,” which just brought back a lot of memories. It talked about music and some of the most iconic bands from the past. Since I myself grew up listening to music, I found the piece relatable. 

Of course, I also appreciated both “A Political Life” and “A Political Life 2,” which both provided a glimpse of the political climate from the time they were written. I believe pieces as such are important in ensuring that people don’t forget about our dark past as a nation.

Finally, I want to say that anyone who’s into creative nonfiction, especially those who are curious about how memories can be effectively used and explored in writing, can learn a lot from this little book.

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