A beautiful, heart-rending poetry collection about a childhood steeped in loss and love.
Using free verse and her own lived experience, León tells readers a story through the lens of a mixed-race girl, from her years as a young child to being a teenager, going from life with her White birth mother—never having met her Black father—to being in foster care, getting adopted by her Puerto Rican mother, and moving to pre-gentrified Harlem. Captured in this collection is the sense of community among people bonded by a shared culture as much as by proximity and class. Captivating descriptions of rituals celebrating the living and mourning lives gone highlight the resilience needed in order to not just move on, but survive. León describes with gripping honesty the heartbreak of being separated from one’s mother, the trauma of enduring violence at the hands of those who are supposed to care for you, and the bittersweet feeling of being adopted and finding a sense of belonging outside of one’s biological parentage. Readers will be left feeling sorrowful and yet hopeful by this story of how to live when death surrounds you and how to define and dream of freedom when freedom seems like a privilege bestowed on others who don’t look like you.
A moving, inspiring love letter to and about “the concrete kids. The kids with a melanin kiss.”(Verse memoir. 12-18)