Brave, sharp, and powerful.

An illustrated poem that acknowledges prejudice and celebrates Black hair.

Award-winning author and poet Acevedo opens with an insult that will resonate with Black girls and women: “Some people tell me to ‘fix’ my hair.” Her powerful response comes at the very end: “You can’t fix what was never broken.” In between, many themes are explored, some of which apply to Black people broadly, while others specifically reference Dominican culture. Throughout, Pippins’ hand-drawn and digital illustrations showcase an incredible array of natural hairstyles and details, such as the image of a ship within the braided pattern of one character’s hair. Impressively, the poem goes beyond typical dialogues about Black hair, acknowledging Black people’s internalized racism that comes from beauty standards grounded in White supremacy. The poem highlights the reputation that Dominicans have for being able to “flatten the spring in any lock,” following that line with a powerful reframing. From there, Acevedo moves into discussing colorism⁠—in particular, the prejudice against lighter-skinned people partnering with darker-skinned people—and more. Pippins’ bright, colorful, and evocative art covers full pages, lovingly portraying the all-Black cast with a diverse range of skin tones and hair textures. The text varies in size, seamlessly incorporated into the art. An incredible amount of reflection appears in this slim volume, making this a wonderful choice for group discussions.

Brave, sharp, and powerful. (Poetry. 12-adult)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-293194-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022


Sullivan, winner of Milkweed's 1996 National Fiction Prize for her fifth novel, this follow-up to The Cape Ann (1988), limns with discerning sympathy the struggle of a young girl to escape the terrible toll of a mother's mental illness. The story is set once again in the small town of Harvester, Minnesota; the time now is the mid-1930s, when Sally Wheeler's mother Stella begins having crying spells. She cries when Sally enters kindergarten, she cries in department stores, she cries over anything remotely sad. By the age of seven, Sally resolves that she will never cry as long as she lives. And while her mother gets worse, sinking farther and farther into a depression blamed on menopause, Sally struggles to live a normal life. Sullivan's insights into a child's desperate need for normality and acceptance give immediacy to her story. Close friends like Lark and Beverly- -characters from The Cape Ann—help, as do adults like Lark's mother Arlene Erhart and the widowed Mrs. Stillman and her shell- shocked son Hillyard. Grandparents are loving and attentive, and so is father Donald, but nothing can compensate Sally for her mother's worsening condition. Stella is eventually hospitalized; Sally and her father become the subjects of local prejudice; and, as Sally moves on to high school, these pressures take their toll: Her grades decline, she begins sleeping with boys, and she becomes involved with pathologically possessive Cole Barnstable. A drama teacher, recognizing her acting ability, helps her find some contentment, but when he dies in an accident, Sally falls apart, retreating into herself and cleaning house obsessively, although good friends do come through. Finally encouraged to realize her talents, Sally writes and stars in the ``The Kingdom of Making Sense,'' a play celebrating a place ``where everything is possible, for sadness rarely lasts beyond an hour.'' A perceptive and refreshingly unsensational account, if at times too slowly paced, of a child's determination to claim and affirm life.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 1-57131-011-8

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Milkweed

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1996


The symbolism of Mary and child coming to liberate the immigrants may be heavy-handed, and occasionally Hussein’s language...

The first novel in English from one of the most important writers in Urdu, an Indian-born author (The Weary Generations, 1999) virtually unknown in the West. That should change.

The story is narrated alternately by Amir, an illegal immigrant in Birmingham, and by his teenaged daughter Parvin, who, having come to England at five, is struggling between the traditional expectations of her father and her desire to enter into the life of her adopted country. Adding drama are the time-shifts between Amir’s first coming to Birmingham and the present, when he is a legal homeowner but nevertheless engaged in a running battle with his wife and children, who have little idea of his struggles to give them a new and better life. It’s a conflict that brings to mind such writers as Henry Roth and Roth’s vivid images of the Lower East Side, as well as V.S. Naipaul with his tales of Indian immigrants in the Caribbean. But, while Abdullah does not suffer from such comparisons, his novel is unique in its depiction of a particular kind of suffering in what most of us consider a civilized country. Unforgettable, for example, is Amir’s memory of living in a house with eight other Pakistanis and his description of their absolute terror at being discovered by the authorities. One of the men finds a lover named Mary, who gets pregnant and later becomes the catalyst for a violent struggle that will break up the group home and force Amir and the others out on their own. After much difficulty, Amir becomes a British citizen, gets a job at the post office, and buys his own home. His dreams are realized, yet he doesn’t do nearly so well with his wife, daughter or son, all in different ways rejecting their father and the life he has chosen for them.

The symbolism of Mary and child coming to liberate the immigrants may be heavy-handed, and occasionally Hussein’s language can be awkward. But altogether Émigré Journeys is a remarkable performance.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-85242-638-1

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001

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