cover image Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head

Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head

Warsan Shire. Random House, $17 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-0-593-13435-1

The commanding debut from Shire captures the loneliness of migration in crystalline language punctuated by the menace of patriarchal violence. In the collection's strongest piece, "Home," Shire, who is a British writer born to Somali parents in Kenya, writes vividly of impossible choices made by people forced to migrate: "No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark. You only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well." While this poem makes a strong political statement, it is also deeply personal, evoking the ways in which one's sense of self can be lost: "My beauty is not beauty here. My body is burning/ with the shame of not belonging, my body is longing." Elsewhere, the speaker's religion and perceived foreignness rob her of intimacy and companionship: "Love is not haram but after years of fucking/ women who are unable to pronounce your name,/ you find yourself totally alone." The collection is haunted by those who did not survive migration: "If the moon was Europe, my father was an astronaut who died on his/ way to the moon." Shire's assured voice teems with righteous fury, tempered by rich language to create a memorable and powerful book. (Mar.)