cover image Protection Spell

Protection Spell

Jennifer Givhan. Univ. of Arkansas, $17.95 trade paper (102p) ISBN 978-1-68226-028-9

In a second collection that beats with multiple hearts, Givhan (Landscape with Headless Mama) addresses complicated familial identity, writing of her own Mexican-American background, her mixed-race husband, and their adopted black child. The book is full of anxiety over the vulnerability of children, specifically her own child’s identity and how she can protect him. Givhan writes of the initial apprehension, “after the gauge of my uterus/ had fixed itself on empty.// I’d made peace with the threat of/ you’re not my ‘real’ mother.” She also confronts the racism embedded in the adoption process: how the “white ones cost ten grand more.” Throughout, Givhan exposes the enduring animosity and aggression towards biracial families, doing so with candor and sparkling language. Every line is tightly composed, and the sensory details pull the reader towards the poet as she recounts her splintered world—her past as well as the present world she creates and navigates as a woman and a mother of color. Chronicling the cruelty that children endure at the hands of adults, Givhan casts the eponymous spell for her son and her family. Givhan asks readers to witness racial inequity beside her and imagine a better future—how, we, too, have the power to cast a spell so that every human feels secure, safe, protected. (Feb.)