Black History Month Review of “Say Her Name” by Zetta Elliott

This collection of poems was inspired, according to the author’s Introduction, by “examples of Black excellence reported online alongside accounts of appalling brutality.” This book, she explains, is her way of bearing witness. She ends the Introduction frankly:

“We do have allies, but some days it feels like all we have is each other. This book of poetry is for us. I love us.”

The poems are for the most part affirming, and begin with my favorite in the collection, “Black Girl Miracle.” It addresses a black girl, explaining:

“You are more
Than magic
You are a miracle
Because we were never
Meant to survive
Not as human beings….”

One, called “How to Resist,” ends with the heartrending coda:

“most of all:
feel something
feel something
feel something”

The last poem, called “Blessing,” is also a favorite of mine in this collection. (Okay, okay, it’s actually hard to pick favorites – they are all truly excellent.). “Blessing” begins:

“May you have a resilient spirit,
And a compassionate heart,
The desire to heal,
And the will to forgive.”

This one has a strong coda too, made up of three stanzas I want to cite in full, because they resonated so much with me:

“Indictments are rare
Like snow in the Sahara
Or cops behind bars

Innocence belongs
To other people’s children
Ours are born condemned

Stop killing us stop
Killing us stop killing us
Stop killing us STOP.”

Not all the 49 poems in this book are by Elliott, although most of them are. She includes one work each by Audre Lorde, Lucille Clifton, Nikki Giovanni, and Phillis Wheatley.

Boldly-colored Illustrations by Loveis Wise convey strength and resilience, complementing the message of the text.

Evaluation: This excellent collection of poems, celebrating black women and girls, is so needed in these times, and is both stirring and uplifting.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Disney/Jump at the Sun, an imprint of Disney Book Group, 2020

About rhapsodyinbooks

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2 Responses to Black History Month Review of “Say Her Name” by Zetta Elliott

  1. Laurie C says:

    This sounds great!

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