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Showing posts from February, 2019

Aja Monet's My Mother was a Freedom Fighter

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being policed for being
too poor
too much a shade
a color
a shade of color
too close to the root
too close to the color
               the shade
too close
to the color of a beating
being beaten
                    beating         heart

-- from "the first time"

Poetry doesn't have to be complicated or obscure. Poetry can pull out the sharp thorn of truth and hold it up in a way that would be pedantic or amateurish in fiction or essay. Poetry distills down what is so very individual into a sip that offers a brief flash of universal understanding.

Monet's volume of poetry grabbed me with the title; it had been on my radar as one of the 2017 releases to look out for. It ticked a box, too, for the 2019 Read Harder challenge. I read it in one night, gulping, then spent another two weeks moving back through the pieces slowly.

My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter by Aja Monet
Haymarket Books, 2017
Copy from library
Read Harder challenge

Many pieces hit you like the headline of a news story, …

Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Signal to Noise

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"I hate this city," she told the pillow, because she wouldn't tell him.

Music as magic. 1988 and 2009. A story split between two fixed points, a friendship then and what it might be now.

Set in Mexico City, this novel follows a young teen named Meche, a loner who adores music and is friends with two other loners, Sebastian and Daniela. When Meche discovers she can cast spells using records, her life is changed.


Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Solaris, 2015
Copy from library
Read Harder challenge

Initially, it seems this magical skill can only improve Meche's life, even though Sebastian and Daniela are less convinced. Angry teenagers wielding magic leads right where you can imagine, and I loved every minute of it. Moreno-Garcia beautifully articulates that awful, oppressive, unshakeable frustration one suffers as a teen, and the ugly wishes Meche manifests resonated with me so strongly. At times, Meche is so unlikable, but realistically so: you want to shake her…

Dominique Christina's Anarcha Speaks: A History in Poems

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me? a bruised ghost
i concentrate on
my teeth/ the roof of my mouth/
i'm tryna rub it smooth/ concentrate on not blinkin

see how long I can go til my eyes need to shut.

Anarcha was one of eleven slaves who were purchased by "father" of modern gynecology Dr Marion Sims for his research. Essentially torturing these women, Sims did his research (including surgeries) without offering pain relief or sedation. Our lauded study and history of medicine has for so long been polished of its shameful bits, but in this slender, intense volume of poetry, a name and voice is given to the very real, the very human sacrifice to our knowledge.

Anarcha Speaks: A History in Poems by Dominique Christina
Beacon Press, 2018
Personal copy

It's impossible to call this an "enjoyable" read, but it is gutting, gripping, and necessary. Giving voice to the ignored, Christina makes it imperative we know and understand the humans behind any learning we've gained. This volume can be read w…

Kaoru Mori's Emma, #1

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 ...for this world allows you no more than a cupful of dreams. So be stingy with your time. And run.

Or something like that.

I think if I had known manga was similar to graphic novels, I might not have waited so long to make my first attempt. As it were, thanks to Read Harder 2019, I begged the internet to recommend some historical romance manga, and across the board, folks recommended this series.

Holy crap, it was so charming.

Emma, Vol. 01 by Kaoru Mori (森 薫)
CMX, 2006
Copy from public library
Historical Fiction and Read Harder challenges

Set in 1885 London, our heroine, Emma, is a maid for a retired governess. The governess' former ward, William Jones, is now a young man tasked with managing his family's business and fortune. He's immediately smitten by the quiet Emma but social constraints prevent him from openly pursuing her.

There's not much more to the story than that, and the delight is in William and Emma and their circles. William's classmate Hakim visits …