by E. Maria Shelton Speller ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 29, 2004
Confident and indelicate; goads readers to insert themselves in difficult discussions about relevant cultural matters.
Speller explores the intersections of race, sex, violence, and art in this experimental poetry collection.
The author attempts to show the effects of gender and racial injustice by weaving together anecdotal and linguistic expression. Many of these poems use dialogue as their centerpiece. Conversations are sometimes staged between prominent political or literary figures such as Angela Davis, Crazy Horse, Picasso and Eldridge Cleaver, while others serve as archetypal characters, constructed to showcase specific societal ills. These interactions yield miscommunications, sexual discoveries and unlikely alliances. For example, “Transition…,” the shortest poem in the collection, reads: “In the body of Christ / Dubois looked at Martin, / ‘Martin, what do you think?’ // Martin looked down / tried to suppress a certain cry / reaching, he wiped a tear / from Du’s eye.” While readers gather that these interactions are meant to demonstrate the speaker’s stance on various political phenomena, this position is sometimes lost in abstraction and florid phrasing. One grandiose evasion is found in the poem “Chinatown”: “Shall we stand here with our mouths gaped in astonishment when life reinforces love and death?” Strewn with broad questions, big declarations and exclamation points, many lines might register as melodramatic. While the poems aim for concrete details and scenarios, images tend to be vague and disorienting. Lines in which an image clicks into place, however, are unmistakable. These phrases convey an idea or metaphor in a unique way or have a particularly strong sonic value. In the poem titled, “Picasso ~ The Bohemian,” readers will find one such moment: “riding the fugitive cube / with the wasp waist and black aft / eucharistic grapes and the curl of the rind….” The poem, “Queen” also contains the shimmering description of a “coca cola coochie,” and “Triptych Some Syncretism” is endowed with the gem, “the exploding heart of the vulva.” Even though these poems are collected in a book, readers will immediately wonder how they sound aloud, as they often possess the rhythms and cadences of performance poetry.Confident and indelicate; goads readers to insert themselves in difficult discussions about relevant cultural matters.
Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2004
Page Count: 128
Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2012
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In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.
Awards & Accolades
A fifth-grade New Orleans girl discovers a mysterious chrysalis containing an unexpected creature in this middle-grade novel.
Jacquelyn Marie Johnson, called Jackie, is a 10-year-old African-American girl, the second oldest and the only girl of six siblings. She’s responsible, smart, and enjoys being in charge; she likes “paper dolls and long division and imagining things she had never seen.” Normally, Jackie has no trouble obeying her strict but loving parents. But when her potted snapdragon acquires a peculiar egg or maybe a chrysalis (she dubs it a chrysalegg), Jackie’s strong desire to protect it runs up against her mother’s rule against plants in the house. Jackie doesn’t exactly mean to lie, but she tells her mother she needs to keep the snapdragon in her room for a science project and gets permission. Jackie draws the chrysalegg daily, waiting for something to happen as it gets larger. When the amazing creature inside breaks free, Jackie is more determined than ever to protect it, but this leads her further into secrets and lies. The results when her parents find out are painful, and resolving the problem will take courage, honesty, and trust. Dumas (Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest: Episode 5, 2017, etc.) presents a very likable character in Jackie. At 10, she’s young enough to enjoy playing with paper dolls but has a maturity that even older kids can lack. She’s resourceful, as when she wants to measure a red spot on the chrysalegg; lacking calipers, she fashions one from her hairpin. Jackie’s inward struggle about what to obey—her dearest wishes or the parents she loves—is one many readers will understand. The book complicates this question by making Jackie’s parents, especially her mother, strict (as one might expect to keep order in a large family) but undeniably loving and protective as well—it’s not just a question of outwitting clueless adults. Jackie’s feelings about the creature (tender and responsible but also more than a little obsessive) are similarly shaded rather than black-and-white. The ending suggests that an intriguing sequel is to come.In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.
Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2017
Page Count: 212
Publisher: Plum Street Press
Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018
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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.
In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.
In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.
Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004
Page Count: 152
Publisher: Townsend Press
Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013
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