Eating Moors and Christians is an excavation of the past, one that captures a sense of loss experienced by many in the Cuban exile community. However, the collection speaks to anyone who has been separated from loved ones or who feels displaced.
This is not one of those books you read in order to find out what happened; knowing the end doesn’t spoil one single thing that comes before, because suspense about the plot is never the point. Surprise here comes from ways the narrator weaves the story, from the insights, images and sounds that emerge as she juxtaposes its elements, as we watch her
think about things he said. They run through my mind, a piece of yarn
unwinding so far until gnarled at a knot. I sit and ponder the knot.
At the knot is a feeling. I try to loosen it.
I can’t know what was in his mind….
The way it was on the outside and the way it was on the inside.
I want to take myself for granted. (16)
To labor at what we love—whether that is tinkering away at the car in our garage or carrying our first child to life—is a process of concentrated intensity just as it is a painful, lengthy, and arduous journey. To labor, then, implies paradox: the flash-flickering moments of strenuous human effort and the dull understanding that relief is a long road ahead. Brent Newsom’s debut poetry collection Love’s Labors captures such a paradox. In Newsom’s poems, we encounter an intricate growing narrative of the poet’s becoming a father just as others around him lose their own loved ones. Life and death, grief and shame, flare up with equal intensity, just as a complicated consolation slowly cools the senses.
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