I’ve been sitting on this review for a few days, mostly because, in the end, I think there is little I can say other than: go read this book of poems. I want to quote every line, but I also want you to know that each line, each poem, though glittering and sharp and gorgeous, adds up to an even bigger whole, a story about trauma and loss, love and resilience, a story about the fierce and beautiful lives of queer and trans people of color.
This book moved me to my core. Kai Cheng Thom writes about queer family and birth family, about ancestry, about race and class, about being a woman and being trans, about journeying, about sex and violence and the power of stories. There is so much in these words: ferocity, anger, tenderness.
I was reading this book at the same time as I was reading The House of Impossible Beauties by Jospeh Cassara. You can read my full review here, but what struck me about that book was its one-sidedness: it was a book about queer and trans people, but (in my opinion, anyway) it captured so much queer suffering, and little queer joy.
A Place Called No Homeland is full of painful and heartbreaking poems. It is also full of poems that celebrate and rejoice, that affirm, poems that overflow with the brilliance and power and worth of trans people of color. Everything exists in these poems: all the mess, all the aching, all the beauty.
I’ll leave you with an expert:
“boy, you got to love the girl in the boy in the girl in the boy in you in you in you. delicious heart, refuse to forget. you got to remember that your heart is not a clenched fist your heart is not a bruised face your heart is a mango full to bursting with sunlight oh sticky heart, smooth substance, there is joy in your aching, refuse to surrender the memory of your flavor. you got to forgive yourself for hurting. boy, sometime you got to forget what someone said to you what someone did to you how much you hurt. mingling with the salt tang of the surf that sprays cool against your beautiful legs so long and so bare in short shorts with cuffs so high they make heaven blush like dawn is coming dawn is coming dawn is here. time to grow your hair long enough to tie up and put flowers in and walk along the beach into the wind and let the petal fragrance waft around you like a cloud. time to pain your nails red again. cuz today’s the day you stop defining yourself by the lines the knives the hands the knuckles belt buckles blades left on your arms legs chest face today’s the day you start to breathe in three dimensions again.
girlboy, you femme femme fabulous”
from ‘girlboy, you femme femme fabulous’