Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir

Wordsong. Oct. 2019. 336p. photos. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781629798813.
Gr 7 Up–Grimes offers young adult readers the special treat of literary ingenuity in her new memoir. “Time to grab my flashlight / and step into the tunnel,” Grimes writes in an early poem—making reference to her task with this new work. In long poems, short poems, and the occasional prose poem, Grimes guides us through her past tragedies and triumphs while keenly observed moments build her inner world. Readers spend time with three different points of view: child Grimes, adolescent Grimes, and burgeoning adult Grimes. Though the circumstances and characters change as she moves and grows, her voice is consistently spare and warm. The poems about experiencing neglect as a five-year-old carry the same powerful simplicity as those written about high school. A memoir that doesn’t demand a time line, this work is a personal history in poems that you can read backward and forward.
VERDICT This nontraditional memoir from a long-working and highly acclaimed author will speak deeply to young readers harboring their own interest in writing or otherwise squeezing art out of life’s spiky fruit.

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