When We Make It by Elisabet Velasquez Book Review

Book Description

An unforgettable young adult debut novel-in-verse that redefines what it means to make it, touching on themes of mental illness, sexual assault, food insecurity and gentrification, in the Nuyorican literary tradition of Nicholasa Mohr and the work of contemporary writer Elizabeth Acevedo.

Sarai is a first-generation Puerto Rican eighth grader who can see with clarity the truth, pain, and beauty of the world both inside and outside her Bushwick apartment. Together with her older sister Estrella, she navigates the strain of family traumas and the systemic pressures of toxic masculinity and housing insecurity in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn. Sarai questions the society around her, her Boricua identity, and the life she lives with determination and an open heart, learning to celebrate herself in a way that she has been denied.

When We Make It is a love letter to girls who were taught to believe they would not make it at all. The verse is evocative and insightful, and readers are sure to be swept into Sarai’s world and rooting for her long after they close the book.

Review

Thank You to Penguin Random House for the advanced copy of this book as well as the finished copy so that I am able to review.

Thoughts and Themes: I really enjoy reading books in verse because of how different the stories go and how much emotion can be packed in. I like how Sarai is questioning so many of the things around her in this book and her place amongst everything and everyone.

I really liked how this story took you around the places Sarai was living in but also introduced you to her culture. I liked getting introduced to her culture through each verse and learning more about her and her family.

Characters: In this book you get introduced to several characters through their interactions with Sarai. You get to meet her mother, sister, and some of the other adults who briefly are in her life. While each character is introduced to you briefly, I think you get a good image of the role that everyone plays in Sarai’s life.

I really liked getting to know Sarai through the whole book and how she thinks of the world and of others. I also liked getting to see the relationship that Sarai has with her sister throughout this book. I thought it was great to see how she doesn’t want to be anything like her sister but she also really respects her sister. I liked that we get to see both Sarai and her sister’s relationship with their mother but also how far away their mother is from them emotionally.

Writing Style: This book is written in prose and I really liked that choice. I liked how none of the pieces were long and it gave you the sense of how Sarai was always going from one place to the next physically or emotionally. There were so many pieces that I really enjoyed in this book and it was just great to be able to explore Sarai’s world through poetry.

Author Information

ELISABET VELASQUEZ is a Brooklyn Born Boricua.

She is a mother of two.

Her poems are an exploration of her life. 

Velasquez has performed at Lincoln Center Out Of Doors, Pregones Theatre, Bushwick Starr Theatre, The Bowery Poetry Club, Brooklyn Museum, Museum Of Natural History, The Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Rutgers University, Williams College, Adelphi University, Pace University, Princeton University, James Madison University, Harvard University and The Amber Rose Slut Walk 2017. 

Her work has been featured on  TIDALNBC, Now This, Huffington Post, Latina Magazine, Vibe Magazine, Muzzle MagazineCentro Voces. She is a VONA Alum, 2017 Poets House Fellow. She is the winner of Button Poetry’s 2017 Poetry Video Contest. She is a 2019 Frost Place Fellow. Her work is forthcoming in the anthology : WHAT SAVES US Poems of Empathy and Outrage In The Age Of Trump edited by Martin Espada.

What Mother’s Withhold by Elizabeth Kropf Book Tour Post

Thank You to Poetic Book Tours for allowing me to be on this book tour to let others know about this book published January 4, 2021.

Author Information

Elizabeth Kropf earned her Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Perelandra College. Kropf has had over twenty poems in publications including The Texas Poetry Calendar, the DEFY! Anthology by Robocup Press, and several editions of di-verse-city, the anthology of the Austin International Poetry Festival. A dream called her from California to Austin, where she now lives with her husband and daughters. The poems in what mothers withhold were written over a span of over ten years, bookending the birth and babyhood of her delightful daughters. Kropf’s next book might be about fruit, pavement, or volcanoes. She is currently working on an ekphrastic poetry collaboration with artist Tamryn Spruill, who created the cover art for what mothers withhold.

Book Description

The poems of “what mothers withhold” are songs of brokenness and hope in a mother’s voice, poems of the body in its fierceness and failings. Elizabeth Kropf’s poems revel in peeling back silence, and invite us to witness a complicated and traumatic world that is also filled with love.

–Cindy Huyser, poet and editor, author of “Burning Number Five: Power Plant Poems.”

With these visceral poems, poet and mother Elizabeth Kropf has composed a chant of the vocabulary of vulnerability. From fertility to conception to birth—or not—and into motherhood, Kropf’s recounting of her experiences compels the reader to enter and acknowledge the power of what mothers endure and withhold.

–Anne McCrady, author of Letting Myself In and Along Greathouse Road

Review

Thoughts and Themes: This is a short book of poetry that discusses motherhood from the beginning and through it all. I thought that it was good that it went back and forth with time so we saw before her children, during, and the process of having them.

Something that I really enjoyed about this set of poems was how it felt like this was a letter from a mother to her children. I love how this is something that very personal to the author that she is deciding to share with you as a reader. I thought that really made the emotions in each poem really stand out and seeing how she has mixed feelings about motherhood. I thought it was great that she included these mixed feelings but also made it a point to include love along with those feelings.

Characters: There is one central theme in this whole book and that is motherhood and because of the theme, there are several characters involved. Each poem is told through the perspective of the mother but it includes the daughters as characters and her mother.

Writing Style: I really enjoyed how short each of these poems are and how they are told as a story. As you read each poem, it is as if you are reading a short story that the author is telling you. I love how this book feels like the author is telling you about her life and as if you are listening to her speak. I think that this would be a great book to get a chance to hear live or even on an audiobook.

January 2021 TBR

These are the books that I plan on reading throughout the month of January. Come back to my blog throughout this month to find reviews of each book. At the end of the month, you can see what I managed to read this month.

Glimpsed by G.G. Miller

Charity is a fairy godmother. She doesn’t wear a poofy dress or go around waving a wand, but she does make sure the deepest desires of the student population at Jack London High School come true. And she knows what they want even better than they do because she can glimpse their perfect futures.

But when Charity fulfills a glimpse that gets Vibha crowned homecoming queen, it ends in disaster. Suddenly, every wish Charity has ever granted is called into question. Has she really been helping people? Where do these glimpses come from, anyway? What if she’s not getting the whole picture?

Making this existential crisis way worse is Noah—the adorkable and (in Charity’s opinion) diabolical ex of one of her past clients—who blames her for sabotaging his prom plans and claims her interventions are doing more harm than good. He demands that she stop granting wishes and help him get his girl back. At first, Charity has no choice but to play along. But soon, Noah becomes an unexpected ally in getting to the bottom of the glimpses. Before long, Charity dares to call him her friend…and even starts to wish he were something more. But can the fairy godmother ever get the happily ever after? 

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

For fans of Sorry to Bother You and The Wolf of Wall Street—a crackling, satirical debut novel about a young man given a shot at stardom as the lone Black salesman at a mysterious, cult-like, and wildly successful startup where nothing is as it seems.

There’s nothing like a Black salesman on a mission.

An unambitious twenty-two-year-old, Darren lives in a Bed-Stuy brownstone with his mother, who wants nothing more than to see him live up to his potential as the valedictorian of Bronx Science. But Darren is content working at Starbucks in the lobby of a Midtown office building, hanging out with his girlfriend, Soraya, and eating his mother’s home-cooked meals. All that changes when a chance encounter with Rhett Daniels, the silver-tongued CEO of Sumwun, NYC’s hottest tech startup, results in an exclusive invitation for Darren to join an elite sales team on the thirty-sixth floor.

After enduring a “hell week” of training, Darren, the only Black person in the company, reimagines himself as “Buck,” a ruthless salesman unrecognizable to his friends and family. But when things turn tragic at home and Buck feels he’s hit rock bottom, he begins to hatch a plan to help young people of color infiltrate America’s sales force, setting off a chain of events that forever changes the game.

Black Buck is a hilarious, razor-sharp skewering of America’s workforce; it is a propulsive, crackling debut that explores ambition and race, and makes way for a necessary new vision of the American dream.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Acclaimed author of Ash Malinda Lo returns with her most personal and ambitious novel yet, a gripping story of love and duty set in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the Red Scare.

“That book. It was about two women, and they fell in love with each other.” And then Lily asked the question that had taken root in her, that was even now unfurling its leaves and demanding to be shown the sun: “Have you ever heard of such a thing?”

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.

America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

“Lo’s writing, restrained yet luscious, shimmers with the thrills of youthful desire. A lovely, memorable novel about listening to the whispers of a wayward heart and claiming a place in the world.”—Sarah Waters, bestselling and award winning author of Tipping the Velvet and The Night Watch 

Summer of L.U.C.K. by Laura Segal Stegman

Stuttering Darby is never perfect enough for her mother. Justin’s been silent since his dad died. Naz is struggling to learn English. But after they meet at summer camp, mysterious calliope music from an abandoned warehouse grants them power to communicate without words. When they sneak inside, the dark, empty space bursts into a magical carnival. They’re greeted by the ghost of Leroy Usher, who asks for their help convincing his family to restore the carnival to its former glory. In return, he promises to teach the kids how to find their voices.

As Darby, Justin, and Naz are swept off on a series of midnight adventures via Mr. Usher’s carnival rides, they discover they’re capable of more than they ever imagined. With each challenge, their confidence in communicating – and in themselves – grows. Meanwhile, they scheme to persuade the Usher family to revive the carnival. But when Darby’s bunkmates trick her into starring in the camp talent show, her budding confidence falters. Can she risk being less than perfect by performing in the show and speaking up to Mr. Usher’s resistant son? If not, she’ll put the carnival in danger and sabotage her most important quest: to believe in herself, stutter and all.

A Neon Darkness by Lauren Shippen

Los Angeles, 2006. Eighteen-year-old Robert Gorham arrives in L.A. amid the desert heat and the soft buzz of neon. He came alone with one goal: he wants to see the ocean. And Robert always gets what he wants.

At a very young age, Robert discovered he had the unusual ability to make those close to him want whatever he wants. He wanted dessert instead of dinner? His mother served it. He wanted his Frisbee back? His father walked off the roof to bring it to him faster. He wanted to be alone? They both disappeared. Forever.

But things will be different in L.A. He meets a group of strange friends who could help him. Friends who can do things like produce flames without flint, conduct electricity with their hands, and see visions of the past. They call themselves Unusuals and finally, finally, Robert belongs.

When a tall figure, immune to their powers, discovers them, the first family that Robert has ever wanted is at risk of being destroyed. The only way to keep them
all together is to get his powers under control.

But control is a sacrifice he might not be willing to make.

A Neon Darkness is the origin story of Damien and the second stand-alone story
in the Bright Sessions Novels. 

What Mothers Withold by Elizabeth Kropf

The poems of “what mothers withhold” are songs of brokenness and hope in a mother’s voice, poems of the body in its fierceness and failings. Elizabeth Kropf’s poems revel in peeling back silence, and invite us to witness a complicated and traumatic world that is also filled with love.

–Cindy Huyser, poet and editor, author of “Burning Number Five: Power Plant Poems.”

With these visceral poems, poet and mother Elizabeth Kropf has composed a chant of the vocabulary of vulnerability. From fertility to conception to birth—or not—and into motherhood, Kropf’s recounting of her experiences compels the reader to enter and acknowledge the power of what mothers endure and withhold.

–Anne McCrady, author of Letting Myself In and Along Greathouse Road

Who’s Your Daddy Book Tour Post

Thank You to Poetic Book Tours for allowing me to be on this book tour to let others know about this book coming out March 2021.

Author Description

ARISA WHITE is a Cave Canem fellow, Sarah Lawrence College alumna, an MFA graduate from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author of the poetry chapbooks Disposition for Shininess, Post Pardon, Black Pearl, Perfect on Accident, and “Fish Walking” & Other Bedtime Stories for My Wife won the inaugural Per Diem Poetry Prize. Published by Virtual Artists Collective, her debut full-length collection, Hurrah’s Nest, was a finalist for the 2013 Wheatley Book Awards, 82nd California Book Awards, and nominated for a 44th NAACP Image Awards. Her second collection, A Penny Saved, inspired by the true-life story of Polly Mitchell, was published by Willow Books, an imprint of Aquarius Press in 2012. Her latest full-length collection, You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, was published by Augury Books and nominated for the 29th Lambda Literary Awards. Most recently, Arisa co-authored, with Laura Atkins, Biddy Mason Speaks Up, a middle-grade biography in verse on the midwife and philanthropist Bridget “Biddy” Mason, which is the second book in the Fighting for Justice series. She is currently co-editing, with Miah Jeffra and Monique Mero, the anthology Home is Where You Queer Your Heart, which will be published by Foglifter Press in 2021. And forthcoming in February 2021, from Augury Books, her poetic memoir Who’s Your Daddy.

Book Description

Who’s Your Daddy is a lyrical genre-bending coming-of-age tale featuring a young, queer, black Guyanese American woman who, while seeking to define her own place in the world, negotiates an estranged relationship with her father.

Who’s Your Daddy?, a hybrid memoir combining poetry and creative nonfiction, is a meditation on paternal absences, intergenerational trauma, and toxic masculinity. Who’s Your Daddy? asks us to consider how the relationships we are born into can govern us, even through absence, and shape the dynamics we find and forge as we grow. White lyrically moves across distance and time, from Brooklyn to California to Guyana. Her book enacts rituals that plumb the interior reaches of the heart to assemble disconnected and estranged parts into something whole, tender, and strong. 

Review

Thoughts and Themes: This review was a little difficult to write as this type of story telling is one that I had not read before. I have read memoirs in the past but I had not read one that used the methods that this book has used. I really liked the way that this book makes you think about how relationships dictate so many aspects of our lives as we watch relationships change the narrative in this memoir.

Something that I really like about the way that this story is being told is how it feels like a conversation with someone. This memoir feels like the narrator is sitting down to tell you this story which made it so that this story felt a lot more relatable.

Characters: There is one main character throughout this book even as she talks about others that come along in her journey. The main character is the same person who is narrating this story and it was nice to be able to connect to the story teller in a different method.

Writing Style: I really enjoyed how each poem is kept on a separate page so that the story flows really well. I thought that the choice to have a portion of the first sentence in bold was a great way to give you a glance at what the focus of this poem was going to be. I thought that this was an interesting way to write a memoir and really liked the way that poetry was combined with creative nonfiction.

I recommend this to those of you who enjoy reading memoirs and may want a new way of reading them.

Sanctuary Somewhere Book Review

Goodreads Summary: Seventeen-year-old Osmel dreams of being a meteorologist. His world is shattered when he finds out he is undocumented. Osmel fears his dreams for college and career are now impossible. Then, ICE begins raiding the orchards his family works in. Will Osmel and his family ever find safety and peace in the place they call home?

Thoughts: I stumbled upon this book at the library and since it was prose I figured I’d read it since it would be a quick read. I’m so glad that I decided to read it.

Sometimes books written in prose confuse me and the story gets lost but not this one. I love how the poems just flow into each other and how smooth the transitions are. The style of writing for this book allows you to feel for the characters as they struggle through day to day things.

I love the plot of the story and how complex Osmel’s identity is after he finds out hes undocumented. I think his feelings about it all are so real and raw which makes the story beautiful. I’m so glad they explore the complexity behind his feelings.

I recommend this to those of you who enjoy poetry or young adult books.

You can get this book at Barnes and Noble or look for it at your local library.