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Finna by Nate Marshall

Source: NetGalley
eARC, 128 pgs.
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Finna by Nate Marshall explores identity within the Black community, while looking not only at the dark past of America but also its hip hop present. “when America writes/about Black life/they prefer the past/ tense,” the narrator says in “When America Writes.” Many of the early poems explore identity, a young man who wants to learn and go to college, choosing something more than the gangs and drugs he sees in the community. But even then, there is that push and pull of becoming a learned person and the person the community nurtured.

In “another Nate Marshall origin story,” the narrator says, “perhaps our rage at the other is just the way we fill what we don’t know about ourselves.” A deep look at who we are is integral to our development no matter what stage of life we are in, but many times we skip this step and force ourselves into certain roles in our environments or in our families. For a young boy of five to already know lyrics about the deaths seen regularly in the Black community is a strong judgment on our society’s treatment of those who are not white. He delves further into the saddest commentary on our society in “I thought this poem was funny but then everybody got sad” — “what has a black body/& is read all over?/I mean is read all over/I mean/that’s the punch/line.”

publicist

a mentor told me
to consider writing
essays that commemorate
days that relate to my book.
it's a good way to insert
your work into the public
conversation. well motherfuckers
spend every day killing
a Black somebody in Chicago
& every next day the whole world
practices saying silences like
Black on Black
gang related
violent neighborhood
so I guess I owe a
million essays.
i guess my book
will be huge.

Finna by Nate Marshall expresses the struggles of Black America using familiar cultural vernacular and Hip Hop to bring readers into a world masked by white institutions and standards that are imposed upon these Americans. Nate Marshall’s narrator speaks about the other Nate Marshalls of the world and how he is not like them. But they are connected in how their life’s struggles can emotionally wear them down. What Marshall brings to life in this collection is that we are all human and empathy is something we need to relearn in order for us to connect.

RATING: Quatrain

Mailbox Monday #582

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what we received:

Finna by Nate Marshall for review.

Definition of finna, created by the author: fin·na /ˈfinə/ contraction: (1) going to; intending to [rooted in African American Vernacular English] (2) eye dialect spelling of “fixing to” (3) Black possibility; Black futurity; Blackness as tomorrow

These poems consider the brevity and disposability of Black lives and other oppressed people in our current era of emboldened white supremacy, and the use of the Black vernacular in America’s vast reserve of racial and gendered epithets. Finna explores the erasure of peoples in the American narrative; asks how gendered language can provoke violence; and finally, how the Black vernacular, expands our notions of possibility, giving us a new language of hope:

nothing about our people is romantic
& it shouldn’t be. our people deserve
poetry without meter. we deserve our
own jagged rhythm & our own uneven
walk towards sun. you make happening happen.
we happen to love. this is our greatest
action.

Tapping Out by Nandi Comer for review.

The relentless motions and blinding colors of lucha libre, the high-flying wrestling sport, are the arresting backdrop to Nandi Comer’s collection Tapping Out. Mexican freestyle wrestling becomes the poet’s lyrical motif, uncovering what is behind the intricate masks we wear in society and our search for place within our personal histories. Comer’s poetic narratives include explorations of violence, trauma, and identity. The exquisite complications of the black experience in settled and unsettled spaces propel her linear explorations, which challenge the idea of metaphor and cadence.

The harsh realities of being migrant and immigrant, being birthright and oppressed, are as hard-pressed as the plancha move to the body. Each poem in Tapping Out is a “freestyle movement” of language and complexity put on full display, under the bright lights and roars of survival. Comer’s splendid and barbed, Detroit style of language melts the masks with searing words.

Resistance: A Songwriter’s Story of Hope, Change, and Courage by Tori Amos, which I purchased from Audible.

Since the release of her first, career-defining solo album Little Earthquakes, Tori Amos has been one of the music industry’s most enduring and ingenious artists. From her unnerving depiction of sexual assault in “Me and a Gun” to her post-September 11 album, Scarlet’s Walk, to her latest album, Native Invader, her work has never shied away from intermingling the personal with the political.

Amos began playing piano as a teenager for the politically powerful at hotel bars in Washington, DC, during the formative years of the post-Goldwater and then Koch-led Libertarian and Reaganite movements. The story continues to her time as a hungry artist in Los Angeles to the subsequent three decades of her formidable music career.

Amos explains how she managed to create meaningful, politically resonant work against patriarchal power structures – and how her proud declarations of feminism and her fight for the marginalized always proved to be her guiding light. She teaches us to engage with intention in this tumultuous global climate and speaks directly to supporters of #MeToo and #TimesUp, as well as young people fighting for their rights and visibility in the world.

Filled with compassionate guidance and actionable advice – and using some of the most powerful, political songs in Amos’ canon – this audiobook is for anyone determined to steer the world back in the right direction.

What did you receive?