Women's History Month is an opportunity for people to be reminded of the importance of the female experience. Reading books written by women gives everyone a chance to get some perspective on how gender has played a role in many people’s lives. As this month comes to a close, continue to take time to hear someone else's story - from motherhood, to immigration, to queerness, to everywhere in between. Here are some great BOA reads to get you started, all available in the BOA Bookstore!
- I Am Not Trying to Hide My Hungers from the World by Kendra DeColo: Kendra DeColo reaffirms the action of mothering as heroic, brutal, and hardcore. These poems interrogate patriarchal narratives about childbirth, postpartum healing, and motherhood through the lens of pop culture and the political zeitgeist. With references ranging from Courtney Love to Lana Del Rey to Richard Burton to Nicolas Cage, I Am Not Trying to Hide My Hungers from the World revitalizes the way we look at mothering: pushing its boundaries and reclaiming one's spirit of defiance, abundance, and irreverent joy. (Spring 2021)
- Letters to a Young Brown Girl by Barbara Jane Reyes: Barbara Jane Reyes answers the questions of Filipino American girls and young women of color with bold affirmations of hard-won empathy, fierce intelligence, and a fine-tuned B.S. detector. The Brown Girl of these poems is fed up with being shushed, with being constantly told how foreign and unattractive and unwanted she is. She’s flipping tables and throwing chairs. She’s raising her voice. She’s keeping a sharp focus on the violences committed against her every day, and she’s writing through the depths of her “otherness” to find beauty and even grace amidst her rage. Simultaneously looking into the mirror and out into the world, Reyes exposes the sensitive nerve-endings of life under patriarchy as a visible immigrant woman of color as she reaches towards her unflinching center. (Fall 2020)
- Mother Country by Elana Bell: Mother Country examines the intricacies of mother–daughter relationships: what we inherit from our mothers, what we let go, what we hold, and what we pass on to our own children, both the visible and invisible. As the speaker gradually loses the mother she has always known and upon whom she has always depended to early onset Parkinson’s disease and mental illness, she asks herself: “How do you deal with the grief of losing someone who is still living?” The caregiving of a child to her parent is further compounded by anxiety and depression, as well as the pain of a miscarriage and the struggle to conceive once more. Her journey comes full circle when the speaker gives birth to a son and discovers the gap between the myths of motherhood and a far more nuanced reality. (Fall 2020)
- Rue by Kathryn Nuernberger: In this fiercely feminist ecopoetic collection, Kathryn Nuernberger reclaims love and resilience in an age of cruelty. As the speaker—an artist and intellectual—finds herself living through a rocky marriage in a conservative rural state, she maintains her sense of identity by studying the science and folklore of plants historically used for birth control. Her botanical portraits of common herbs like Queen Anne’s lace and pennyroyal are interwoven with lyric biographies of groundbreaking women ecologists whose stories have been left untold in textbooks. With equal parts righteous fury and tender wisdom, Rue reassesses the past and recontextualizes the present to tell a story about breaking down, breaking through, and breaking into an honest, authentic expression of self. (Spring 2020)
- Fanny Says by Nickole Brown: An “unleashed love song” to her late grandmother, Nickole Brown’s collection brings her brassy, bawdy, tough-as-new-rope grandmother to life. With hair teased to Jesus, mile-long false eyelashes, and a white Cadillac Eldorado with atomic-red leather seats, Fanny is not your typical granny rocking in a chair. Instead, think of a character that looks a lot like Eva Gabor in Green Acres, but darkened with a shadow of Flannery O’Connor. A cross-genre collection that reads like a novel, this book is both a collection of oral history and a lyrical and moving biography that wrestles with the complexities of the South, including poverty, racism, and domestic violence. (Spring 2015)
- The Living Theatre by Bianca Tarozzi: In this first US publication of celebrated Italian poet Bianca Tarozzi, narrative poems (presented bilingually in both English and the original Italian) carry us through the poet’s childhood memories of World War II under Mussolini, harsh post-war conditions, and mid-century changes that transformed Italian life, specifically for women. A unique figure in contemporary Italian poetry, Tarozzi draws significant influence from acclaimed American poets—Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, and James Merrill—interweaving powerful subjects with humor and heart. (Fall 2017)
- Reptile House by Robin McLean: The fascinating characters in these nine short stories abandon families, plot assassinations, nurse vendettas, tease, taunt, and terrorize. They retaliate for bad marriages, derail their lives with desires and delusions, and wait decades for lovers. How far will we go to escape to a better dream? What consequences must we face for hope and fantasy? Probing the dark underbelly of human nature and want, Robin McLean’s stories are strange, often disturbing and funny, and as full of foolishness and ugliness as they are of the wisdom and beauty all around us. (Spring 2015)
- Year of the Dog by Deborah Paredez: In the tradition of women as the unsung keepers of history, Deborah Paredez’s second poetry collection tells her story as a Latina daughter of the Vietnam War. The title refers to the year 1970—the Year of the Metal Dog in the lunar calendar—which was the year of the author’s birth, the year her father prepared to deploy to Vietnam along with many other Mexican-American immigrant soldiers, and a year of tremendous upheaval across the United States. Images from iconic photographs and her father’s snapshots are incorporated, fragmented, scrutinized, and reconstructed throughout the collection as Paredez recalls untold stories from a war that changed her family and the nation. In poems and lamentations that evoke Hecuba, the mythic figure so consumed by grief over the atrocities of war that she was transformed into a howling dog, and La Llorona, the weeping woman in Mexican folklore who haunts the riverbanks in mourning and threatens to disturb the complicity of those living in the present, Paredez recontextualizes the Vietnam era, from the arrest of Angela Davis to the haunting image of Mary Ann Vecchio at the Kent State Massacre, never forgetting the outcry and outrage that women’s voices have carried across time. (Spring 2020)
- Tracing the Horse by Diana Marie Delgado: Set in Southern California's San Gabriel Valley, Diana Marie Delgado’s debut poetry collection follows the coming-of-age of a young Mexican-American woman trying to make sense of who she is amidst a family and community weighted by violence and addiction. With bracing vulnerability, the collection chronicles the effects of her father’s drug use and her brother’s incarceration, asking the reader to consider reclamation and the power of the self. (Fall 2019)
- All Its Charms by Keetje Kuipers: A luminous new collection from Keetje Kuipers, All Its Charms is a fearless and transformative reckoning of identity. By turns tender and raw, these poems chronicle Kuipers’s decision to become a single mother by choice, her marriage to the woman she first fell in love with more than a decade before giving birth to her daughter, and her family’s struggle to bring another child into their lives. All Its Charms is about much more than the reinvention of the American family—it’s about transformation, desire, and who we can become when we move past who we thought we would be.
- Copia by Erika Meitner: Erika Meitner’s fourth book grapples with the widespread implications of commercialism and over-consumption, particularly in exurban America. Documentary poems originally commissioned by Virginia Quarterly Review examine the now-bankrupt city of Detroit, once the thriving heart of the American Dream. Meitner probes the hulking ruins of office buildings, tract housing, superstores, construction sites, and freeways—exposing a vacuous world of decay and abandonment—while holding out hope for re-birth from ashes. (Spring 2019)
- Sky Country by Christine Kitano: Christine Kitano’s second poetry collection elicits a sense of hunger—an intense longing for home and an ache for human connection. Channeling both real and imagined immigration experiences of her own family—her grandmothers, who fled Korea and Japan; and her father, a Japanese American who was incarcerated during WWII—Kitano’s ambitious poetry speaks for those who have been historically silenced and displaced.
- Anne Hébert: Selected Poems by Anne Hebert, translated by A. Poulin Jr.: Anne Hébert: Selected Poems is the first bilingual collection of poetry by this major world poet—and Canada’s most important French poet of the twentieth century—to be published in the United States and Canada. It includes a generous selection from Hébert’s central book, Poemes (Paris, 1960) and several previously uncollected and untranslated poems. A. Poulin, Jr. is the highly acclaimed poet and translator of Rainer Maria Rilke’s French and German poetry. (Summer 1988)
- Elegy with a Glass of Whiskey by Crystal Bacon: Crystal Bacon's Elegy with a Glass of Whiskey was awarded the 2003 A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Stephen Dunn. In this robust collection Bacon explores vision and the nature of myth-making, from cultural archetypes, such as Persephone and Narcissus, to Anne Frank and Chet Baker, to the personal myths that shape individual lives. Additionally, these poems, written from Bacon's perspective and adopted personas, examine the timeless themes of birth and death, love and loss, maleness and femaleness. This book contains a foreword by Stephen Dunn in which he states, "We are the beneficiaries of such beautifully heard musings." (2004)
- The Naomi Letters by Rachel Mennies: Rachel Mennies embraces the public/private duality of writing letters in her latest collection of poems. Told through a time-honored epistolary narrative, The Naomi Letters chronicles the relationship between a woman speaker and Naomi, the woman she loves. Set mostly over the span of a single year encompassing the 2016 Presidential Election and its aftermath, their love story unfolds via correspondence, capturing the letters the speaker sends to Naomi—and occasionally Naomi’s responses, as filtered through the speaker’s retelling. These letter-poems form a braid, first from the use of found texts, next from the speaker’s personal observations about her bisexuality, Judaism, and mental illness, and lastly from her testimonies of past experiences. As the speaker discovers she has fallen in love with Naomi, her letters reveal the struggles, joys, and erasures she endures as she becomes reacquainted with her own body following a long period of anxiety and suicidal ideation, working to recover both physically and emotionally as she grows to understand this long-distance love and its stakes—a love held by a woman for a woman, forever at a short, but precarious distance. (Spring 2021)
- How to Carry Water: Selected Poems of Lucille Clifton edited by Aracelis Girmay: How to Carry Water: Selected Poems of Lucille Clifton celebrates both familiar and lesser-known works by one of America’s most beloved poets, including 10 newly discovered poems that have never been collected. These poems celebrating black womanhood and resilience shimmer with intellect, insight, humor, and joy, all in Clifton’s characteristic style—a voice that the late Toni Morrison described as “seductive with the simplicity of an atom, which is to say highly complex, explosive underneath an apparent quietude.” Selected and introduced by award-winning poet Aracelis Girmay, this volume of Clifton’s poetry is simultaneously timeless and fitting for today’s tumultuous moment. (Fall 2020)
- The Tiny Journalist by Naomi Shihab Nye: Internationally beloved poet Naomi Shihab Nye places her Palestinian American identity center stage in her latest full-length poetry collection for adults. The collection is inspired by the story of Janna Jihad Ayyad, the “Youngest Journalist in Palestine,” who at age 7 began capturing videos of anti-occupation protests using her mother’s smartphone. Nye draws upon her own family’s roots in a West Bank village near Janna’s hometown to offer empathy and insight to the young girl’s reporting. Long an advocate for peaceful communication across all boundaries, Nye’s poems in The Tiny Journalist put a human face on war and the violence that divides us from each other. (Spring 2019)
- Cyborg Detective by Jillian Weise: In her third collection of poems, Jillian Weise delivers a reckoning to the ableism of the Western Canon. These poems investigate and challenge the ways that nondisabled writers have appropriated disabled bodies, from calling out William Carlos Williams to biohacking Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” to chronicling the ongoing headlines of violence against disabled women. Part invective, part love poem, Cyborg Detective holds a magnifying glass to the marginalization and fetishization of disabled people while claiming space and pride for the people who already use technology and cybernetic implants every day.
Compiled by Isabella Boughalem, spring 2021 intern at BOA and an English major and poetry minor at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR.