Jasmine Mans's book of poems Black Girl, Call Home came highly recommended by one of my dearest friends, and luckily my local library had a copy available. I read a paperback copy, but I imagine the audiobook is an even better experience, as Mans is a spoken word poet.
I'd like to preface the review by stating poetry is not a genre I read frequently, so I don't feel as comfortable reviewing it as, say, a fantasy novel. However, I enjoyed Mans's work and wanted to share it with y'all.
Genre: Modern Poetry
Category: Emotional Read
Want to know more about how we categorize books? See our Glossary for details.
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
TRIGGER WARNING: this isn't a collection to go into unless you're feeling mentally and emotionally stable. Mans covers topics that can be triggering for a range of folx: racism, homophobia, police brutality, the Birmingham bombings, assault, rape, gun violence, depression, self-harm, murder and suicide, human trafficking, family separation, forced sterilization, and other traumas. The book does also include inspiring and uplifting poems.
Your laugh is for sanctuaries,
and everything else
that holds God,
and an echo.
Poetry isn't a genre I know much about. However, the variety of formats Mans uses in Black Girl, Call Home ensures there is at least one poem even poetry snobs can appreciate. No matter which style is used, Mans does an incredible job of painting a very real picture, making the reader feel as if they are a child sitting at the kitchen table.
She agonizes in poems like "Secrets" and "Trans-Panic," then goes completely off in others like "Serena," where she confronts micromanaging and the way women— especially black women—aren't permitted to show real emotion, especially if it's anger or indignance.
. . . women do not yell, women do not take their shirts off, Serena loses the match and is fined $17,000,
we cannot allow her to get too out of control.
Women are not allowed real emotion
in the street,
in the office,
in their skin.
While I couldn't relate to everything as a white woman, this collection at least offers a glimpse into the lives of black women, from girlhood to motherhood and everything in between. Mans's words are so stunning and heavy, I could feel the weight of them settling in my heart and gut.
"Missing Girls"—a crossword puzzle where readers search for the names of missing girls, allowing at least a part of them to be found—and the last poem are especially potent. You MUST call the number at the end.
For all these reasons and more, Black Girl, Call Home is an essential read—not just for black women to be seen and represented, but for ALL women, so we may understand, appreciate, and love our black sisters better.