This poetry collection celebrates more than 20 years of students’ writing from Chicago’s Oak Park and River Forest High School Spoken Word Club.

Since its founding by Kahn in 1999, the OPRFHS Spoken Word Club has inspired its members, who have won numerous accolades, published their work in prestigious journals, and studied creative writing at top universities. Collected here are dozens of poems by former members of the club, curated by groundbreaking poets Abdurraqib, Choi, Kahn, and Sullivan. The poems are organized by theme, starting with the localized “Notes From Here,” which offers meditations on Chicago’s uniquely complicated landscape, and ending with the haunting section of “Survival Tactics,” which showcases the resilience that develops in the face of hardship. The young poets featured in these pages hold nothing back, spilling their souls into spellbinding odes to pain, hope, and justice and delving into intensely personal subject matter: Asia Calcagno writes of being born in “A conditional war zone—a consequence / of blessings”; Vann Harris imagines raising a mixed-race child and muses on the violent legacy of slavery: “For my proverbial daughter’s father, I am / a mantelpiece. A feast. A storehouse for his seed”; RC Davis laments a funeral where “these words will buzz around the room: / Sister. Granddaughter. Young woman./ No one will use they/them pronouns in my eulogy.” The variety of content, poetic styles, and perspective ensures broad appeal.

Electric and expansive. (about the club, contributor credits) (Poetry. 12-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-22681-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Small but mighty necessary reading.


From the Pocket Change Collective series

A miniature manifesto for radical queer acceptance that weaves together the personal and political.

Eli, a cis gay white Jewish man, uses his own identities and experiences to frame and acknowledge his perspective. In the prologue, Eli compares the global Jewish community to the global queer community, noting, “We don’t always get it right, but the importance of showing up for other Jews has been carved into the DNA of what it means to be Jewish. It is my dream that queer people develop the same ideology—what I like to call a Global Queer Conscience.” He details his own isolating experiences as a queer adolescent in an Orthodox Jewish community and reflects on how he and so many others would have benefitted from a robust and supportive queer community. The rest of the book outlines 10 principles based on the belief that an expectation of mutual care and concern across various other dimensions of identity can be integrated into queer community values. Eli’s prose is clear, straightforward, and powerful. While he makes some choices that may be divisive—for example, using the initialism LGBTQIAA+ which includes “ally”—he always makes clear those are his personal choices and that the language is ever evolving.

Small but mighty necessary reading. (resources) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09368-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

Best enjoyed by preexisting fans of the author.


From the Pocket Change Collective series

Deaf, trans artist Man meditates on his journey and identity in this brief memoir.

Growing up in conservative central Pennsylvania was tough for the 21-year-old Deaf, genderqueer, pansexual, and biracial (Chinese/White Jewish) author. He describes his gender and sexual identity, his experiences of racism and ableism, and his desire to use his visibility as a YouTube personality, model, and actor to help other young people like him. He is open and vulnerable throughout, even choosing to reveal his birth name. Man shares his experiences of becoming deaf as a small child and at times feeling ostracized from the Deaf community but not how he arrived at his current Deaf identity. His description of his gender-identity development occasionally slips into a well-worn pink-and-blue binary. The text is accompanied and transcended by the author’s own intriguing, expressionistic line drawings. However, Man ultimately falls short of truly insightful reflection or analysis, offering a mostly surface-level account of his life that will likely not be compelling to readers who are not already fans. While his visibility and success as someone whose life represents multiple marginalized identities are valuable in themselves, this heartfelt personal chronicle would have benefited from deeper introspection.

Best enjoyed by preexisting fans of the author. (Memoir. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-22348-2

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

Did you like this book?