Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Book Review: Whereas by Layli Long Soldier

First line: Now
make room in the mouth
for grassesgrassesgrasses

Another find I have to credit wholly to my fellow book bloggers; in this case, Carolyn of Rosemary and Reading Glasses. Her review of this volume of poetry made me put this book on my TBR immediately, and it felt pretty urgent I read it.

I'm so conflicted about how to review this book. I struggled with almost the entirety of Part I but Part II, her long form exploration of Congress' throwaway apology to Native Americans, was captivating and brilliant. But every piece in this book, whether I "got" it or not, hit me hard, and I can't dismiss anything in this volume.

Many of the poems are about language and identity; Long Soldier wrestles with definitions and grammatical rules to make a point about the rules Native Americans face. She details the appalling microaggressions she experienced (like a white woman saying she'd never thought American Indians had feelings until seeing a woman sob on a news story) and the frustration of repeatedly bumping into the cheerful, willful ignorance of USians.

By coincidence, I read this in tandem with When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson, a beautiful and aching children's picture book about a First Nations woman scarred by the government policy of genocide and terror -- and the way she reclaimed her culture and identity as an adult.

It took me almost three months, to the day, to read this volume. It begs slow going, but the result is rewarding.

If I'm transformed by language, I am often
crouched in footnote or blazing in title.
Where in the body do I begin;

Title: Whereas
Author: Layli Long Soldier
Genre: Poetry (American Indian / Oglala Sioux / US Politics / Post-Colonial /
Publisher/Publication Date: Graywolf Press (3/7/2017)
Source: My public library

1 comment :

  1. I bought this book recently and I'm really looking forward to reading it. It was one of the titles I was very excited to get from Graywolf Press.