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Citizen illegal : poems
2018
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  Publishers Weekly Review

Olivarez celebrates his family and Mexican-American identity in his hopeful, waggish, and devastating debut collection. He has a critical eye for how Mexicans and Mexican-Americans are observed, labeled, and categorized, writing that "it's hard for one body to contain two countries,/ the countries go to war & it's hard to remember you are loved by both/ sides or any sides." This concept ignites a paralyzing hyperconsciousness that offers a glimpse into the poet's oftentimes conflicting identities and provides the inventive structure of the eponymous opening poem. "Mexican woman (illegal) and Mexican man (illegal)/ have a Mexican (illegal)-American (citizen)./ is the baby more Mexican or American?" he asks. Olivarez is sharply critical of American media portrayals of Mexican-American culture: "when i watch the news i hear my name, but never see my face. every other commercial is for taco bell." Olivarez shines when he embraces the flaws and the grandeur of his background. His poem "Gentefication" imagines a neighborhood being reclaimed from gentrifiers and a people's commune taking its place: "we trade tortillas for haircuts, nopales for healthcare,/ poems for groceries, & if all you can do/ is eat the food, we ask that you wash your dishes." In the neighborhood of Olivarez's imagination, "the whole block is alive/ & not for sale." (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
<p>"Citizen Illegal is right on time, bringing both empathy and searing critique to the fore as a nation debates the very humanity of the people who built it." --Eve Ewing, author ofElectric Arches</p> <p>In this stunning debut, poet José Olivarez explores the stories, contradictions, joys, and sorrows that embody life in the spaces between Mexico and America. He paints vivid portraits of good kids, bad kids, families clinging to hope, life after the steel mills, gentrifying barrios, and everything in between. Drawing on the rich traditions of Latinx and Chicago writers like Sandra Cisneros and Gwendolyn Brooks, Olivarez creates a home out of life in the in-between. Combining wry humor with potent emotional force, Olivarez takes on complex issues of race, ethnicity, gender, class, and immigration using an everyday language that invites the reader in. Olivarez has a unique voice that makes him a poet to watch.</p> <p>José Olivarezis the son of Mexican immigrants. He is a co-host of the podcast, The Poetry Gods. A winner of fellowships from Poets House, The Bronx Council On The Arts, The Poetry Foundation, and The Conversation Literary Festival, his work has been published inThe BreakBeat Poetsand elsewhere. He is the Marketing Manager at Young Chicago Authors.</p>
Table of Contents
Ip. 1
(Citizen) (Illegal)p. 3
My Parents Fold Like Luggagep. 4
Mexican Heavenp. 5
River Oaks Mallp. 6
My Therapist Says Make Friends with Your Monstersp. 7
Boy & The Beltp. 9
The Voice in My Head Speaks English Nowp. 10
Rumorsp. 11
IIp. 13
Mexican Heavenp. 14
Ode to Cheese Friesp. 15
I Wake in a Field of Wolves with the Moonp. 17
Note: Rose that Grows from Concretep. 18
Ode to Cal City Basement Partiesp. 19
Not-Love is a Seasonp. 20
Mexican Heavenp. 22
On My Mom's 50th Birthdayp. 23
Hecky Nawp. 24
Ode to Scottie Pippenp. 26
IIIp. 27
Mexican Heavenp. 28
The Day My Little Brother Gets Accepted into Grad Schoolp. 29
I Tried to Be a Good Mexican Sonp. 30
I Walk into Every Room & Yell Where the Mexicans Atp. 31
Mexican American Obituaryp. 32
White Folks Is Crazyp. 33
Mexican Heavenp. 35
I Ask Jesus How I Got So Whitep. 36
Poem in Which I Become Wolverinep. 37
When the Bill Collector Calls & I Do Not Have the Heart to Answerp. 39
Mexican American Disambiguationp. 41
IVp. 43
Mexican Heavenp. 44
You Get Fat When You're in Lovep. 45
Interviewp. 46
My Family Never Finished Migrating We Just Stoppedp. 48
If Anything Is Missing, Then it's Nothing Big Enough to Rememberp. 49
Sleep Apneap. 50
Mexican Heavenp. 51
Note: Vaporubp. 52
Summer Lovep. 53
Vp. 55
Mexican Heavenp. 56
Poem to Take the Belt Out of My Dad's Handsp. 57
My Mom Texts Me for the Millionth Timep. 58
I Loved the World So I Married itp. 59
Love Poem Feat Kanye Westp. 60
Getting Ready to Say I Love you to My Dad, it Rainsp. 61
River Oaks Mall (Reprise)p. 63
Genteficationp. 64
Guapop. 66
Acknowledgmentsp. 67
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