cover image Thousand Star Hotel

Thousand Star Hotel

Bao Phi. Coffee House, $16.95 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-56689-470-8

Phi (Sông I Sing), National Poetry Slam finalist and multiple Minnesota Grand Slam poetry winner, deconstructs the nature of Americanness from his perspective as a first-generation Vietnamese-American. It’s a timely collection full of stunning images and language. Exploring what it means to be American, who gets to be American, and why, Phi acknowledges the painful family history that has shaped him. In “Cookies,” a familial memory of war functions as an example of generational trauma: “I want to say I am made of war and that means so are you. I want to say I was born inside a halo of gunpowder.” In “Kids,” Phi shows that the demonization of the other is taught at an early age, realizing that his “daughter is not yet five when she learns to be scared of racists.” Phi’s poems illuminate how white privilege encourages complicity in white supremacy and how white supremacy dehumanizes and demonizes its victims: “you infesting this place.” With equal parts quiet reflection and hip-hop prowess, Phi’s collection showcases the melding of the deeply personal and the fiercely political. (July)