Mans, Jasmine. Black Girl, Call Home. Penguin Publishing Group. 2021. $15.00. 245p. PB. 9780593197141.
Jasmine Mans’s stunning new poetry collection speaks to her unique life experiences so poignantly, she makes them feel universal. Mans’s vulnerability, righteous and rightful anger, and razor-sharp wit transform painful vignettes from her past into vivid snapshots of the joys, traumas, and passions that can so profoundly affect those who come of age as Black or as a lesbian, or at the intersection of those identities. The book delves into so much pain, longing, and grief, it could be a very difficult, overwhelming book but the poet’s self-assured craft makes for an exhilarating and propulsive experience. Mans often chooses directness and precision over opacity which make for an powerful, occasionally thrilling collection.
I’m excited to write about this book. In truth, I read Black Girl, Call Home three times in 2 days. In a way, more times than that, as certain poems demand to be re-read immediately. The sureness and confidence of Mans’s writing are striking and as the book’s form and story unfold, revisiting earlier poems can unlock new, enhanced meanings and interpretation. The book is almost structured as an emotional coming-of-age story. Mans reflects on racism, sexuality, and the painfully fraught relationships we have with family, partners, and even popular culture (her pieces on the importance of Whitney Houston and Kanye West are both perfectly incisive). Taken collectively, the poems paint a rich, captivating portrait of a young girl fighting to live, feel and love freely in the face of a world that is disproportionately contemptuous, overly expectant and outright “sharp” towards her because of who she is and who she is not.
This book is highly recommended for young adult and older readers, especially those seeking fresh and diverse perspectives. The uniqueness and power of Mans’s voice and the uniformly excellent writing make this a must read for poetry lovers and also for those like me with ambivalent experiences and attitudes towards poetry. This collection is an absolute gem.
University of Washington Bothell