NONFICTION

Say Her Name

Disney/Jump at the Sun. Jan. 2020. 112p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781368045247.
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Gr 7-10–Elliott describes herself as a writer of poetry, but not a poet. When she learned that some of her students were unfamiliar with the poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks, she introduced them to the poetry of black women. In her own life, Elliott has often responded to violence and pain through the act of writing. These poems represent her response to victims of violence and racial discrimination, among other atrocities that black Americans have suffered. It is also her way to give a voice to black people who have lived through these circumstances. Some poems include provocative language and situations that may be best read and discussed with adult guidance. For example, the poem “Mouse” describes a street smart girl who gets into a physical altercation and “took one look at the blood/drippin from her friends scalp/pulled out her knife and jabbed him/just like I taught her.” Many of the poems echo writers like Lucille Clifton, Audre Lorde, and Nikki Giovanni; a few of the poets’ writings are included in this collection. Titles such as “Black Girl Miracle,” “Self-Care,” and “Black Lives Matter” pay homage to the strength and power of black girls and women while offering empowerment. Elliott’s poetry also encourages readers to act when confronted with injustice, whether through marching or campaigning or responding through writing.
VERDICT This collection is inspirational, uplifting, and encouraging for readers of all genders. Elliott may not think of herself as a poet, but her creativity and deft wielding of rich language prove otherwise.

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