The story of a teenage girl’s depression unfolds in a poetic narrative that slowly reveals a web of love, betrayal, abuse, rape, and murder.
Sabaine’s ambitious debut book combines a novel, a memoir, a social commentary, and a confessional poem as it delves into a teenager’s coming-of-age. Divided into 10 sections, the book begins with the “unwritten diary” of a character named Sabaine, a “SPANISH GUAYANESE CARAMEL-COVERED GIRL” whose family immigrated to New York when she was in fifth grade. The girl suffers from isolation and depression as she struggles to deal with a wide range of painful adolescent issues, including struggles with her body image, family expectations, and suicidal thoughts. The author also weaves in the traumatic story of Marie, who witnesses the murder of her best friend by a priest involved in satanic rituals. The author’s stream-of-consciousness narrative, written as a series of loosely connected poems, creates a vigorous sense of movement and immediacy that will carry readers along. Although the work’s overall chronology and the transitions between Marie’s and the main character’s stories can be confusing, the author shows a sure hand with language, and numerous lines capture the imagination and inspire further thought. In the first part, for example, she describes a young girl’s loss of self-esteem: “One cannot make an apple whole / again once it has been / turned into juice.” The third section introduces deeply personal political commentary that perceptively expresses the immigrant’s disillusionment: “America is poor. / It’s only plated in gold to attract consumers.” It also explains sexual politics succinctly: “Men will always be the hawks / and women will always be the rats crawling on the ground.” At some points, the author employs shape poetry, framing her words in spirals, boxes, and bars to convey the confines of racism and poverty as well as the often false promise of equality in American society.
A challenging but reasonably effective look at the struggles of a young woman of color who clings to her strength and identity.