[REVIEW] Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans

(Click here to buy this book.)

I am once again asking publishers, editors, and readers to let Black women write beyond sadness in America. Please? sigh

This collection of poetry from a queer Black woman starts strong. It’s put together very well in a technical sense but it all feels kind of by the numbers to me. There are a few pieces about difficult relationships, a few about the dangers of existing while Black in America, then a little detour into critiques of Kanye West and veneration of Whitney Houston. There are explorations of being queer and Black, of having Black daughters, Black mothers, Black lovers. Of course, it also has a few short snippets of spirituality and lots of attempts to be emotionally pithy.

All of the right stuff is here but that vital spark, that thing that makes poems reach out from the page and shake a reader around by the face, just isn’t present. Part of it is a lack of imagination, IMO. These poems are very point A-to-point B in their construction and imagery, as though anything more outside of the lines than a Black queer femme identity was too much for the final product. Also, without the celebrity references, a lot of these poems read like they could have been written in the 70s and 80s. Surely thought has shifted since then? I mean…Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks, and June Jordan all did this already, earlier, better, with fewer resources and arguably less raw cultural material to work from. Frankly, I’d rather just read all of them again.

I wanted to like this–just look at that cover!–but I don’t think it was for me. It’s familiar, affirming, and bold in its expression of social place and identity. But there’s nothing new or illuminating in the ideas here and I feel like maybe something vital was removed between conception and publication.

I’m slating this book, I know, but I wanted a lot more from this than I got. 3 stars and an extra infusion of Wild Growth Oil to Black Girl, Call Home.

(Beautiful people! I feel like I’m being a bit harsh here but this collection was just ok for me. If you want to see some poetry I recommend, check out the booklist Poetry Vibes. There’s lots more like it on the Equal Opportunity Bookshop. Don’t forget that we have affiliate relationships with them and any purchases you make after following a link on this site will earn a commission. Peace!)

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