One of Tuma's Books Diverse Reads picks for September, Plantains and Our Becoming is a wonderful poetry collection by fellow New Yorker Melania Luisa Marte.
Perfect for Latiné/Hispanic Heritage Month, this imaginative collection looks at the identities and histories of the Dominican Republic and Haiti in order to celebrate and center the Black diasporic experience. Through the exploration of themes like self-love, nationalism, displacement, generational trauma, and ancestral knowledge, this collection confronts stereotypes while creating new ideals for Black identity and personhood.
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This is a beautiful, stunning poetry collection about the identities and lived experiences of an Afro-Latina woman from NYC. I marked so many entire poems and lines as faves - my copy bursting with post it tabs.
"When they ask, what's it like: to carry the blood of the colonizer and the colonized? To know that there is a war of power inside you that mighty never heal? To still love yourself despite the trauma? To fight to be seen despite the erasure? To hold your ancestors' dreams of freadom and jump into the unknown?" (Marte)
Marte's poems about Hispaniola were insightful and thoughtful. They made me interested in learning more about Haiti and DR's tumultuous history despite sharing an island.
"I am creating my own eulogy before they write me out of the wrong story" (Marte).
At the core of Marte's collection is the power of telling one's own story. Rather than let anti-Blackness rhetoric erase her identity -- she is unapologetic about embracing both her African ancestry and Dominican culture.
"And how much more money do you think we will collectively need to erase the centuries of disenfranchisement that plagues us?" (Marte)
Marte also explores what is lost in immigration -- leaving a kind of paradise for a land that doesn't accept you as you are, wanting you to become something else. I really loved her way with language. It was accessible and easy to understand-- Heart-first vs. Head-first poetry is my fave. Some poems did make me think but most made me FEEL- warm, mad, shocked, disappointed, understood, stunned, etc.
Overall, loved this poetry collection and would highly recommend for folks who enjoy works about cultural identity, home, belonging, family, immigration, and history.
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