cover image Trace Evidence

Trace Evidence

Charif Shanahan. Tin House, $16.95 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-953534-66-8

In this exquisite and affecting collection, Shanahan (Into Each Room We Enter Without Knowing) explores longing and alienation in queer and mixed-race contexts. With provocative and arresting language, he examines the ways in which white supremacy and heteronormativity make those who do not fit neatly into categories feel like outsiders in their own lives: “To speak at all/ I must occupy a position// In a system whose positions/ I appear not to occupy.” He writes of the subtle complications in his relationship with his Moroccan mother, who, unlike Charif, does not consider herself Black: “Over there, she was sahrawi, asmar,/ Even abid. Over here, Black.// To her, Black meant African American,/ Which she was not// ...Hence the pocket of nowhereness.” “On the Overnight from Agadir,” the haunting poem at the center of the book, he details a visit to Morocco, during which he was involved in a bus accident that broke his neck, a near-death experience that caused him to examine his priorities and serves as a chilling symbol of the trauma surrounding his racial identity and heritage. Out of pain and loss, joy, sex, state-sanctioned violence, and nomadic longing, Charif constructs a comprehensive identity and an artistic vision that is dynamic and brilliantly conveyed. (Mar.)