A collection of poems cries out against prejudice encountered by immigrants and women.
The free verse poems and prose paragraphs in Singh’s debut book urge compassion toward those who are sexually and racially profiled. The passionate social agenda comes through most clearly in Chapter I, “Justice and Something Sweeter.” The poet vilifies racial and sexual divisions, xenophobia, and child labor. In particular, she laments women of color being forced to deny their sexuality and question their societal value: “idolized as virgins / And when lost, thrown like carcasses onto a road,” while an Asian bride “is never told / Of her worth beyond / The gold on her neck.” These feminist poems are among the volume’s finest, along with the riff on Kipling’s “If” and the prose sections in Chapter II that connect to earlier themes of racial stereotyping. For instance, the poet recalls feeling a policeman’s eyes follow her around a mall, and gives an imagined monologue from a Sikh man whose home was branded with racist graffiti. Other sequences are from the points of view of rape and domestic violence victims. In every case, Singh argues, the key to changing hateful and violent behavior is to “enlighten the oppressor.” Most of the poems are unnamed, though their closing italicized phrases might be considered either titles or envois. Chapter III, “Intricacies of the Human Mind,” is a weaker, aimless section; also, too many lines begin with “And” or “But.” Still, it contains some of the loveliest imagery, reassuring a woman that her sadness matters: “The gossamer beads of water / That travel down your cheek.…are sweeter than honey.” Elsewhere the vocabulary and sentiments can be simplistic, even clichéd, as in “The world would be a better place / If we stopped labelling people.” This perhaps reflects the author’s youth—she’s still in high school. Moreover, the collection’s title in no way suggests its contents or tone; it is more forceful than mellow, though alliteration and repetition for rhetorical effect help to soften the pitch.
Flawed but zealous, this thematically strong book of poetry denounces oppression.