Tag Archives: poetry review

Passages: Death, Dementia, and Everything in Between by H.M. Gooden Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

The subtle notes of pain and joy and everything in between that we as a people experience in life are explored through poetry and prose in author H.M. Gooden’s “Passages: Death, Dementia, and Everything In Between”.

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The Synopsis

Life is full of surprises;

full of laughter, love, and losses.

This collection explores the transitions between highs and lows through poetry and prose.

May you find the words on these pages as much a balm to guide you through rocky seas as they have been for me.

The Review

This was such an emotionally driven and heartfelt read. The author and poet does an incredible job of bringing life’s most simple and beautiful (and sad) moments to life, and capturing the raw emotions that go through us all in those personal moments. The balance the author found between the moments of reflection on personal moments and experiences with the actual poetry that acted as snippets of moments in time was expertly crafted in this collection.

The heart of this book was the depth of emotion the author dived head-first into and brought to the surface for readers to experience. The way the author was able to relay such personal experiences and the memories of her life and somehow write it in a way that felt personal to the reader as well brilliantly allowed the reader to feel the very real connection we all as a people share with one another. 

The Verdict

An emotional roller-coaster that takes readers on a journey of life’s darkest and brightest experiences, author H.M. Gooden’s “Passages” is a must-read poetry collection of 2021. The engaging way the author relayed their own experiences to the reader and made it feel personal to everyone who read it was fascinating and heartfelt to see unfold, and the artistic way the poems were delivered really created a stark visual in the reader’s minds that is not to be missed. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

H. M. Gooden has been scribbling on everything since she first learned how to hold a pencil. While often told that her handwriting was atrocious, she persisted, and upon discovering computers and learning how to type, she realized that she was no longer limited by her (admittedly) messy writing.

Unfortunately, life, work, and family have conspired to make it only possible to write in the wee hours or at coffee shops, so most of her love of reading and writing are indulged at times when only vampires and insomniacs abound.

In October of 2017, her love of writing and the characters in the world she created burst into public view in her first book, Dream of Darkness, which follows the adventures of a group of girls fighting evil with abilities that H. M. Gooden would love to have.

When not writing fantasy, H. M. Gooden writes non-fiction pieces exploring the emotions and situations that arise in her day job as a rural family doc. As a result, 4 am has never been busier, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sign up to H. M. Gooden’s newsletter for information on upcoming releases and other random musings at

https://www.subscribepage.com/hmgooden

Any Dumb Animal by AE Hines Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Author and poet AE Hines shares his memoir in a unique in-verse collection of poetry detailing the life of a gay man born and raised in the South, who came of age during the AIDS crisis in his acclaimed book, “Any Dumb Animal”.

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The Synopsis

Any Dumb Animal (Main Street Rag, 2021), the debut poetry collection by AE Hines, presents a memoir-in-verse as told by a gay man raised in the rural South who comes of age during the AIDS crisis. Flashing back and forth in time, a cast of recurring characters and circumstances are woven into a rich tale of survival and redemption, exploring one man’s life as a queer son, father, and husband, over a span of more than thirty years.

The Review

These poems were so incredibly emotional and moving to read. The mark of a truly great poet and writer is always when they can convey in words the emotions that ran through them at that moment, and I can say that the conflicting thoughts and emotions that the poet underwent here were felt greatly. The struggle to understand ourselves and our own identities are hard enough in this world, but the author and poet’s struggle against a toxic relationship with his father and later his own marital struggles really elevates these conflicting feelings tenfold.

What really stood out to me was the near cinematic and storytelling quality that the poems themselves took on. Each poem painted an image in the reader’s mind as the overall narrative of the writer’s life took shape. The balance the author found between the raw emotions these events evoked within himself and the narrative approach to these poems made this collection feel so alive and passionate in its delivery. 

The Verdict

A heartfelt, heartbreaking, and engaging collection of poetry, author AE Hines’s “Any Dumb Animal” is a must-read book of 2021! The narrative quality of the poetry and the way the author was able to relay something so personal to himself and make it relatable to the reader as well as incredible to see unfold. I felt myself tearing up as the author’s words pierced my heart and I felt his pain, making this a true one-of-a-kind story that everyone should read for themselves. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

AE Hines (he/him) grew up in rural North Carolina and currently resides in Portland, Oregon. His poetry has been widely published in anthologies and literary journals including I-70 Review, Sycamore Review, Tar River Poetry, Potomac Review, Atlanta Review, Crosswinds Poetry Journal and Crab Creek Review. He is winner of the Red Wheelbarrow Prize and has been a finalist for the Montreal International Poetry Prize. He is currently pursuing his MFA in Writing at Pacific University. Follow him on TwitterFacebookInstagram.

Cryptic Clockwork by Renley N. Chu Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

One writer attempts to cope with the trauma of his past in late author Renley N. Chu’s autobiographical book of poetry and prose, “Cryptic Clockwork”. 

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The Synopsis

Cryptic Clockwork is an autobiographical series of prose and poetry he wrote through difficult experiences.This begins with the loss of his parents, and continues through his experiences in his abusive adoptive family, the loss of a close friend through suicide, and a toxic, abusive relationship with his ex-boyfriend. They give a glimpse into Ren’s internal state as he processed through past and ongoing trauma, his grief, inability to speak, struggles with mental health, and homophobia.

The Review

This was quite an incredible and moving read. The author was truly talented, having found a way to expertly and subtly traverse the complex emotions of his own heart and mind and somehow managed to tie his experiences into the greater experience of life overall. The tragic and heartbreaking beginning of loss and memory speaks to those who have ever lost someone truly special in our hearts, while the hope that the author found after years of neglect and abusive relationships will easily speak to the spark of hope we all hold in our hearts in the darkest of times.

The writing was quite eloquent in its approach. The balance of poetry and prose was profound in this autobiographical work of art, and the way the author seemed to tap not only into our own emotions but into complex emotions that really defies definition really showcased the complexity of his own mind and heart, showing what a true writer and creative soul he was.

The Verdict

A heartfelt, thought-provoking, and memorable book of poetry and prose, author Renley N. Chu’s “Cryptic Clockwork” is a must-read autobiography. The beauty and heart that shines through in this narrative are impossible to ignore, and while fans will be hard-pressed to not have a tear in their eye, they will definitely have difficulty putting the book down as well. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Author of Cryptic Clockwork, an autographical collection of prose and poems, and Melody of Your Heart, a short story anthology about life, love, and loss. These works were compiled after his death by Tiffany Chu, in hopes they bring hope and encouragement to anyone going through dark times.

Born in England as Leonel M. M. Santiago on May 14, 2003, Renley lost both his parents in a fire that permanently damaged his vocal cords and lungs at the age of five, leaving him unable to speak. He became Justin Steele at the age of eight when adopted into the Steele family.

Through a shared love of writing, Renley met Tiffany Chu in 2020 and they formed a close friendship. At the beginning of 2021, even as his health rapidly deteriorated, he prepared to move to the U.S. and become part of the Chu family.

On May 18, 2021, he changed his legal name to Renley Nicolas Chu.

About a week after his eighteenth birthday, Renley suffered a severe attack leading to lung and heart failure; he passed away on the morning of May 25, 2021, three days before he would have left for the U.S.

Renley’s last wish to come home was fulfilled on June 1, when his ashes were brought to San Diego and scattered at Los Penasquitos Canyon.

He left behind numerous samples of his writing, both personal as well as fictional. Each piece he wrote exudes the rawness and authenticity of his heart, his emotions, his experiences. His style tends to be stream-of-consciousness and metaphorical with a sense of immediacy and strong emotion.

Rest in Peace, Renley Chu (May 14, 2002 – May 25, 2021) 

 InstagramFacebookGoodreads.

https://linktr.ee/renleynchu.author

Palm Lines by Jonathan Koven Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Author and poet Jonathan Koven explores the transformative journey that is life in his short book of poetry, “Palm Lines”.

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The Synopsis

These heartfelt poems speak to a transformative journey “to rediscover love as both a question and an answer.” Seeking hope, honoring family, finding love, accepting time’s passage, and understanding gratitude are all major themes explored in this dreamlike collection. 

The Review

This was quite a powerful and emotionally-driven collection of poetry. The author and poet has done an amazing job of balancing the imagery used to conjure up memories of the past, present, and things yet to come with the more in-depth and personal emotional journey that is embedded into those memories. The way the author utilizes a more metaphysical narrative to explore the emotions of these poems really stood out from the rest of the other poetry books I’ve read, splitting up each section of the book into the Heart, Head, and Life Lines that goes typically into reading palms. 

The poems themselves came across beautifully, perfectly capturing the raw emotions that the author poured into each verse. The poetry often read like a haunting melody or song, captivating the reader to live these memories for themselves and take on the feelings that they often invoked, as well as bringing to mind the shared experiences that people could relate with within this narrative, metaphysical poetry.

Amazon Music: Six Months of Disney+

The Verdict

A breathtaking, heartfelt, and memorable read, author and poet Jonathan Koven’s “Palm Lines” is a must-read book of poetry. The way the author blends nature and metaphysical themes into the more personal narratives of the poems themselves really stood out in a positive way, making this book shine. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Jonathan Koven grew up on Long Island, NY, embraced by tree-speak, tide’s rush, and the love and support of his family. He holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from American University, works as a technical writer, and is Toho Journal’s head fiction editor and workshop coordinator. He lives in Philadelphia with his best friend and future wife Delana, and cats Peanut Butter and Keebler. Read Jonathan’s debut chapbook Palm Lines, now available from Toho Publishing. His award-winning novella Below Torrential Hill is expected winter 2021 from Electric Eclectic. Find more of his short fiction and poetry in:

• American Literary [2012; spring 2013]

• Toho Journal [vol. 1, issue 2]

• Cathexis Northwest [May 2020]

• The Lindenwood Review [issue 10]

• Pub House Books’ Gravitas [vol. 19, issue 1]

• 25 Servings of SOOP [vol.1]

• Paragon Press’ Echo [issue 8]

• Night Picnic Press [June 2020]

• Assure Press’ Iris Literary [fall 2020]

• Black Mountain Press’ Halcyone Literary [vol. 3, issue 3]

• The Dewdrop [April 2021]

• The Dillydoun Review [April 2021]

• 300 Days of Sun [summer 2021]

• Grattan Street Press [fall 2021]

• Head & The Hand Press’ Hindsight is 2020 [fall 2021] 

https://jonathanadamkoven.wixsite.com/portfolio

Guest Blog Post: The Story I Needed To Tell by Cheryl Wilder

The Story I Needed to Tell

I’m not sure who said it, but there’s an adage that goes something like: A first book is the one the author needed to write. This statement is true for me, though not for all the themes found in my first book, Anything That Happens. Hm. That may not be accurate. Let me begin again.

I came to writing through a side door. At the end of my senior year in high school, my English teacher pulled me aside, a stack of my creative assignments in his hand, and urged me to keep writing. “If you enjoy doing this, keep doing it,” Mr. Langford said, making me look up and into his eyes so I could see his serious face. He knew I was an adrift teenager about to be released into the world. I imagine him crossing his fingers as he gave me the “life raft” that is poetry.

My poetry has always been personal, tied to the exploration of emotion. I believe it’s a response to the practical, non-communicative environment where I grew up. The stack of papers Mr. Langford held were poems about friendship and trust, my mom making a new home with her husband-to-be, my father’s absence, and me coming to terms with … my future? 

Since I had little direction, and I enjoyed writing, I took Mr. Langford’s advice. But, I didn’t know how to live like a writer. And I believed “experience” would make me a writer. (Obviously, I wasn’t paying attention in class when we talked about Emily Dickenson’s life.)   

So, when I moved from California to North Carolina at nineteen years old, I was embarking on “life.” I uprooted, hoping for new, enlightening experiences. Nine months later, the event—a car crash—I would eventually need to write happened. 

The irony is that after the crash, I couldn’t write. Then, I wouldn’t write, not seriously. Not for years. I believed it was wrong to make a good thing from my bad act. And since I wanted to become a poet, I kept myself from it, accepting my due punishment. 

The thing about needs is they don’t disappear. Whether I wanted to believe it or not, I was a poet, and a poet needs to write poetry. There’s no escaping it. (Oh, thank goodness.) 

I first gave myself permission to write about the crash in a fiction class. I had returned to college at twenty-seven years old and majored in creative writing. Fiction provided me the distance I needed to write the details of the night, from my friend’s phone call to being handcuffed and put into a police car. In the “story,” the crash was happening to someone else. 

That first step was monumental: I was in the writer’s chair. 

Two years later, during my last poetry workshop before graduation, I wrote my first poem about the crash, the original version of the “Slipped” series that’s in the book. It was the story I wrote in fiction, but this time, I was once again in the driver’s seat. Placing myself there gave me a better vantage point to tell the story, and not only the drinking too much and car wrapped around a pole story. The pieces of the story only I knew: the emotional and psychological impact.

The crash was the story I needed to tell. “Emotional and psychological impact” is the inherent slice of all the stories I tell, like when I tried to understand my father’s choices compared to my mother’s back in high school. 

The main narrative of Anything That Happens is the car crash and its aftermath. But there is also the death of my mother, the birth of my first son, struggles of parenthood, and underneath it all, ever-present shame. There’s no doubt the car crash heightened my interest in how one action can affect someone else. When I wrote about the relationship with my parents and how I felt about becoming a mother, I did so through the lens of cause and effect—the impact of choosing what not to do weighing as heavily as choosing what to do. 

The impact of writing the story I needed to write is just coming to fruition. The book is only two months old. My desire to write hasn’t lessened. Now, I get to work on what I want to write. I don’t know what that looks like yet. Sure, I have ideas and dreams. Okay, I even have projects I kept putting to the side while I finished the needed-to-be-told story. But that’s the “work” of being a writer, and I’ll get to it. For now, I’m still living the piece I’m most interested in, the emotional and psychological impact of having told the story I needed to tell.

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About the Author

Cheryl Wilder is the author of Anything That Happens, a Tom Lombardo Poetry Selection (Press 53, 2021), a collection that examines how to reconcile a past grave mistake and a future that stretches into one long second chance. Her chapbook, What Binds Us (Finishing Line Press, 2017), explores the frailty and necessity of human connection. 

A founder and editor of Waterwheel Review, Cheryl earned her BFA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Passiflora by Kathy Davis Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Author and Poet Kathy Davis shares a collection of poetry that highlights life’s everyday struggles and some of life’s toughest battles in her poetry collection, “Passiflora”.

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The Synopsis

Passiflora is a collection of poems about our day-to-day struggles with loss, raising children, relationships, aging and creating art, and how the nature that surrounds us informs how we view these challenges and sometimes serves as a source of solace.

The Review

A beautifully written and emotional narrative unfolds across this amazing collection. The author has a wonderful way of marrying the imagery of nature with the emotional core of life and the events that often define us. From the book’s very first poems, readers are treated to a unique perspective on life in general, comparing the care for a garden to the care one must show for ourselves physically and mentally, not leaving grief or sorrow to fester or grow on its own in the poem HOW TO GROW WILD.

The author manages to pack a lot of heart and soul into a short read. Readers can truly feel the passion radiating off of the page, exploring the simplest to the most complex and emotionally-driven events life has to offer us all. The author’s words are layered and do a great job of getting the reader to read and re-read the book over and over again to gain new insight into what each poem is bringing forth to the reader’s mind.

The Verdict

A masterful, artful, and mesmerizing book of poetry, author and Poet Kathy Davis’s “Passiflora” is a must-read. A truly heartfelt and emotional journey that readers won’t want to put down, be sure to grab your copies today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Kathy Davis is a poet and nonfiction writer who received her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her poetry manuscript, Passiflora, won the 2019 Cider Press Review Book Award and was released in February 2021. She is also the author of the chapbook Holding for the Farrier(Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Barrow Street, Blackbird, Diode, The Hudson Review, Nashville Review, Oxford American, The Southern Review, story South and other journals. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and been a finalist for Best of the Net and the Conger Beasley Jr. Award for Nonfiction. After raising their two boys, she and her husband moved to an old farmhouse outside of Richmond, Va., where she tends a wildflower meadow when not writing.

https://kathydaviswrites.com/

Anything That Happens by Cheryl Wilder Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Author and Poet Cheryl Wilder shares an intimate and personal look into a time of tragedy and pain and showcases the path towards a second chance at life in the book, “Anything That Happens”.

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The Synopsis

At the age of twenty, Cheryl Wilder got behind the wheel when she was too drunk to drive. She emerged from the car physically whole. Her passenger, a close friend, woke up from a coma four months later with a life-changing brain injury. Anything That Happens follows her journey from a young adult consumed by shame and self-hatred to a woman she can live with… and even respect. Along the way, Wilder marries, has a son, divorces, and cares for her dying mother. Anything That Happens examines what it takes to reconcile a past marked by a grave mistake, a present as caregiver to many, and a future that stretches into one long second chance.

The Review

A truly emotional and deep read, author and poet Cheryl Wilder does a fantastic job of conveying the raw emotions that swirled around her in those painful moments during and after the fateful car crash that changed her and her friend’s lives forever. The author’s words cut deep, exploring the light and darkness of her life and in essence the light and dark that we all face at one point or another in our own lives. 

Slipped I, II, and III were definitely the most gut-punching and visceral poems of the collection, highlighting the traumatic experience the car accident took on the two friends that night. The author also explores the present and the future in this collection, from her years taking care of her dying mother to the rise and fall of her own family and looking ahead, and finding peace and redemption in life. 

The jumble of pain, memories, and yearning in the face of great loss is not only felt in the author’s powerful writing but resonates with so many, including this author, who watched his own mother have to say goodbye to his grandmother in much the same way just two short years ago. Great writing such as this does a great job of connecting readers with the author’s emotions, and this book does just that.

The Verdict

A heartbreaking walk into the past and written in a beautiful symphony of emotions and memories, author Cheryl Wilder’s “Anything That Happens” is a must-read poetry book. A truly honest and memorable collection of poetry that touches the soul and tugs at the heartstrings as readers feel the author’s raw feelings pour out onto the page, readers will not want to miss this incredible journey for themselves. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Cheryl Wilder is the author of Anything That Happens, a Tom Lombardo Poetry Selection (Press 53, 2021), a collection that examines how to reconcile a past grave mistake and a future that stretches into one long second chance. Her chapbook, What Binds Us (Finishing Line Press, 2017), explores the frailty and necessity of human connection. 

A founder and editor of Waterwheel Review, Cheryl earned her BFA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Part of Me: Lost and Found by Cisel Ozbay Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

The painful process of losing oneself can often lead to some pretty insightful discoveries, as readers are sure to find out in author and poet Cisel Ozbay’s “Part of Me: Lost and Found”. 

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The Synopsis

A journey of self- discovery involves completely losing yourself in order to find yourself again. This collection of poems captures all the ways the author has lost herself, and all the truths she has found in doing so.

The Review

The author has managed to blend the artful and emotional side of poetry with the more thoughtful and engaging aspect of philosophy, with readers taking a journey into the author’s process of eliminating all preconceived notions about herself and the world and making new discoveries. 

Each poem is equal parts creative, equal parts philosophical. An early poem that stood out to me was “Ash”, as it speaks to the troubles in our lives that quickly give way to feelings of anger, and yet burning out that anger can lead to the rebirth in a way of our new selves. It speaks to the Phoenix of mythology, which sees rebirth in the aftermath of a great fire, the perfect metaphor for feelings of anger or rage that could easily overtake us if we let it. 

Meanwhile, poems like “Rare” explore the realization that comes from thinking outside of what’s considered the norm, as it can lead to isolation and loneliness, major contributors to feelings of fear and dread. It is about finding a balance and seeking out those who understand your particular approach to life, making these poems incredibly powerful and insightful.

The Verdict

A momentous, emotional, and thought-provoking read, author Cisel Ozbay’s “Part of Me: Lost and Found” is a must-read book of poetry. The last year and a half especially has been hard on us all and has given many of us moments to pause and reflect on our lives. The author captures this enlightening moment of her own and creates a powerful connection with the reader through their profound words and creative approach to the genre. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Cisel Ozbay is an author from London who began writing during her time at University in Aberdeen. She was inspired by her own life experiences and the turbulent times in her life. Acknowledging the benefits of writing on her own self growth she now writes regularly. Her Parts Of Me: From Me to You, and Parts Of Me: Lost of Found books contain poems written during this same period in her life.

https://www.instagram.com/parts_of_me_poetry_/

Who’s Your Daddy by Arisa White Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Author and Poet Arisa White uses poetry and creative nonfiction to tackle important topics such as paternal absences and toxic masculinity in her book, “Who’s Your Daddy”.

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The Synopsis 

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.

The Review

This was a truly powerful and moving read. The author takes readers on an emotional journey through her life, yet captures the important moments through some incredibly captivating prose and poetry. The journey for the author to learn more about her father and subsequently herself was felt in every passage and every page of this book.

The author’s way of writing is not only inviting and engaging with the reader but feels like a natural conversation throughout a lot of this book. Readers can really get a sense of the author’s life as a young, queer, black-Guyanese/American woman through some intimate and personal passages that speak of many hardships the author and so many others have had to endure. From the childhood, the author lived in the United States to the journey to find an absent father and even having to hide who she is while in a nation that condemns those who don’t love the people that the nation says they should love, this book packs a lot of important topics and themes into such a short read, yet still makes for a powerful impact. 

The Verdict

A must-read memoir and poetry book, author Arisa White’s “Who’s Your Daddy” is memorable, impactful, and heartfelt all at once. An insightful look into the journey to discover the author’s past, their parentage, and who they are, readers will not be able to put this book down and will be returning to it long after they have finished reading it. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

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.