Laurie Scheck: Your mother died suddenly—
Kimiko Hahn: Yes, and I’d never felt as deeply—not any feeling—as I felt, and still feel, grief for my mother. A neighbor’s phone call woke us up before dawn—this was 13 years ago—and she told us that my parents had been in a car accident and that my father was in intensive care with broken ribs; that my mother, however, had died instantly, which he didn’t know. So my then-husband and I, along with my sister and her husband, drove up to Yonkers to tell him, to begin the process of taking care of him and all the things one has to do when someone dies. We also had to tell my girls, who were three and six. At the time I was working on a long piece inspired by Said’s Orientalism, and I had to put it aside. Nothing made any sense. I did immediately begin to scribble though—and out of those scraps came The Unbearable Heart. A poet friend told me how strange it was that the figure of the mother was actually dead, because in previous books there was so much longing to find her, to be with her; she felt fairly absent in my childhood and now she really was absent. He was right. Some of my grief is that I’m still looking for her, although I do get a tremendous amount of affection from my daughters. My husband’s two daughters are very affectionate as well. I’m very, very fortunate.