Citizen illegal : poems /

"In this stunning debut, poet José Olivarez explores the story, contradictions, joys, and sorrows that embody life in the spaces between Mexico and America. He paints vivid portraits of good kids, bad kids, families clinging to hope, life after the steel mills, and gentrifying barrios. Drawing...

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Main Author: Olivarez, José, (Author)
Format: Book
Language:English
Published:Chicago, Illinois : Haymarket Books, 2018.
Series:BreakBeat poets series.
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Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Olivarez celebrates his family and Mexican-American identity in his hopeful, waggish, and devastating debut collection. He has a critical eye for how Mexicans and Mexican-Americans are observed, labeled, and categorized, writing that "it's hard for one body to contain two countries,/ the countries go to war & it's hard to remember you are loved by both/ sides or any sides." This concept ignites a paralyzing hyperconsciousness that offers a glimpse into the poet's oftentimes conflicting identities and provides the inventive structure of the eponymous opening poem. "Mexican woman (illegal) and Mexican man (illegal)/ have a Mexican (illegal)-American (citizen)./ is the baby more Mexican or American?" he asks. Olivarez is sharply critical of American media portrayals of Mexican-American culture: "when i watch the news i hear my name, but never see my face. every other commercial is for taco bell." Olivarez shines when he embraces the flaws and the grandeur of his background. His poem "Gentefication" imagines a neighborhood being reclaimed from gentrifiers and a people's commune taking its place: "we trade tortillas for haircuts, nopales for healthcare,/ poems for groceries, & if all you can do/ is eat the food, we ask that you wash your dishes." In the neighborhood of Olivarez's imagination, "the whole block is alive/ & not for sale." (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


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