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THE BLACK PERIOD by Hafizah Augustus Geter Kirkus Star


On Personhood, Race, and Origin

by Hafizah Augustus Geter

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 2022
ISBN: 978-0-593-44864-9
Publisher: Random House

In this elegiac text, a Nigerian American poet pays homage to her family while considering Black origin stories.

“I’d been living inside the story begotten by white America,” writes Geter, “but I’d been born into something else—what was it?” She names this the Black Period, in which “we were the default.” Born in Nigeria, the author grew up in Ohio and South Carolina. Having parents who “centered Blackness and art,” she explains, “meant my sister and I were reared in a world that reflected our image—a world where Blackness was a world of possibility.” Geter grapples with chronic pain and history (“that thing that white people had gotten to write, but we had to live”) and culture in the U.S., “where I had so much in common with the enemy’s face America painted—African/Black, queer, a woman, child of a Muslim mother.” The author compares herself to Atlas, the Greek Titan condemned to support the whole sky: “My body holding up the burden of a country made of myth and lies.” She qualifies the Black Period created by her parents as “one where, if not our bodies, then our minds could be free.” Organized by theme, the narrative meanders yet remains fiery. In details, the author's poetic sensibilities dazzle: “My father thinks I am innately lucky. Even in our grieving, he’s believed me to be a queen in the land of the damned, a winning lottery ticket in a field of beggars.” Of a dream about her mother, who died suddenly when Geter was 19, she writes, “Black folks, we be. We be the whole verb of the wor(l)d.” The book contains two inserts and 50 pages of monochromatic portraits by her father, artist Tyrone Geter. These add another dimension of humanity as well as demonstrate her father's profound influence on her life.

A resonant collage of memories, soulfulness, and elective, electrifying solidarity.