Book Title: Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans
Published: March 2021
Honest Confession: It’s been a while since I’ve read a volume of poetry by a single poet. And by a while I probably mean like 15 years. I recently did some professional learning where I listened to the founder of #TeachLiving Poets talk about how poets structure a volume of poetry and how the placement along with the topics of the poems both have meaning. So I had that in mind as I read Jasmine Mans’ poetry book Black Girl, Call Home. (Keep this point in mind…)
In a Nutshell
This is a poetry collection that reads like a ribbon-tied stack of love letters to Black girls and women in the United States. It’s about the journey to adulthood and the relationships and experiences (both painful and joyful) that are met along the way. There are poems about race, relationships, being queer, feminism and last but not least, living in Newark, New Jersey. (Jersey!!!!!)
Front Row Seat & a Spotlight
First of all, I felt seen and loved as a Black woman as I read this book. To be the center, the main audience for this book was so impactful to me as a reader. It is just so refreshing to read beautiful literature where you are the intended audience. Literature that uses your language, dialect, cultural experiences. Literature that recognizes your pain, love, sacrifice. Mans shines a light on experiences that Black Women are often gaslit for sharing, discussing, or trying to get help to deal with them.
Fave poems: “Macaroni and Cheese”, “Speak to Me of My Mother, Who Was She” , “Witch”, “The Little Mermaid”, “Bodies Lost in History”, “Crazy”, “She God’s Prayer”
The poems about motherhood and the relationships between mothers and their children really pulled me into this book. “Speak to Me of My Mother, Who Was She” touched on my own feelings as a mother and the sacrifices to your inner person that are made in order to make room for what being a mother requires of you. It also made me think of my own mother and how she might feel about the same things. The connections to motherhood in this book are sometimes clear and straight to the point and they are sometimes subtle, to me it mirrored the complicated relationship between a mother and her child.
I See Your Formation
As I read through the poems, a constant question on my mind was: how are these poems connected to each other? What is the reasoning behind the structure. I could see it, but couldn’t always pinpoint it on the dot. So I was very excited for the reward at the end of the book, that came in the form of what I would call a mind map. Check it out, AFTER, you read the book and then re-read it again with the additional insight and it will add a whole additional layer to your reading and understanding of Mans’ work.
What hooked me?
- Instagram Buzz…I was like what is this book with the barrettes that I keep seeing everywhere? Let me investigate.
- The barrettes on the cover. It simultaneously made me think of my own childhood and my mother’s.
- The poem, “Secrets”. Sometimes I actually choose to purchase books after I flip through them randomly. On this occasion, it landed on this brief poem and I was like “Hooked! Must know more!”
Would I Read it Again? Yes. Yup. Yes, ma’am.
Educator’s Recommendation: Run and go get this for your AP Lit and Creative Writing classes! The poetry is rich and the mind map at the end is the chef’s kiss for not only helping your students analyze the work, but also is a beautiful model for writing their own poetry. The fun I would have with students using Jasmine Mans as a mentor poet.