Book Review: “Black Girl, Call Home” by Jasmine Mans

In her luminous poetry collection, “Black Girl, Call Home,” Jasmine Mans crafts a mesmerizing ode to black women and black queer women, illuminating the multifaceted journey of black womanhood, as she artfully navigates the complexities of identity, love, family, and societal expectations.

From the very first page, Mans captures her readers’ hearts with her raw vulnerability and unapologetic honesty. Through her verses, she delves fearlessly into the heart of being a black girl – a black woman.

In one poignant poem, she writes:

Momma prays

Like she’s talking over God And if God were to talk back She wouldn’t even hear him.

As a fellow black girl, I cannot even begin to describe how the lines above so simply carry a mountain of grief. Because as a black girl you know/learn there is always a prayer to be made, a telephone wire to hang on your neck, because there’s always too many injustices and violence angled towards us, too many new griefs we have to pray about: share with god, in the hopes that someone- he, avenge us later.

In another captivating piece titled ‘Period’, Mans uncovers the layers of oppression sometimes bestowed upon black girls by their own, like mothers. She writes:

Mothers teach their daughters How to hide the blood

How to wash out stains upon arrival

To pretend like the blood isn’t there or theirs.

It’s beyond heartbreaking how black girls are burdened, crippled, with the responsibility of shame. How black girls are taught to break their backs and do all the carrying alone. To be strong girl, strong woman, good girl, good woman…..hide their pain…clean the blood after the period, the rape, the abuse… and Mans manages to convey this heartbreak in such simple lines.

One of the most remarkable aspects of “Black Girl, Call Home” is the skilful blend of personal narratives and social commentary. Mans delves into pressing issues such as race, gender, and the fight for equality, infusing her poems with potent messages that demand to be heard. Her words are not just an echo; they are a roar, reverberating with the power of truth and the urgency for change.

In her poem “I Know You Didn’t Mean to Kill Him: An Excerpt,” Mans explores the blurred lines between the mother of the murdered and the murder of the murderer, painting a vivid picture of shared sorrow and collective memory–

Could never tell the difference between the mother of the murdered and the murder of the murderer,

both shook in solemn, both their eyes

and memory

blue instinct,……

Perhaps what is most praiseworthy about the book is the presence of love in every poem- platonic, romantic, and communal. Mans verses even when a shade of blue, always ALWAYS skillfully celebrates love, black love —

A mother breastfeeds her son

through a metal fence, while his father holds the back of his head

on the other side.……

The entire collection showcases Mans masterful command over language, rhythm, and imagery. Her poems read like a symphony, evoking a wide range of emotions – from heartache to joy, from anger to empowerment. Mans’ also passionately calls for self-acceptance and embracing one’s roots through the collection, urging Black girls to find solace in their shared experiences and revel in their beauty and brilliance. She poses a profound question, “Who taught us black girls, how to be so sharp with one another?” as she advocates for compassion and sisterhood.

“Black Girl, Call Home” is not just a collection of poems but a tour de force; it is an anthem for Black girls everywhere. This collection is a testament to the power of words and their ability to heal, inspire, and unite. Mans has crafted a poignant and unforgettable collection that celebrates the strength, resilience, and beauty of Black womanhood.

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