Grace Notes: Poems about Families

Greenwillow. May 2024. 240p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780062691873.
Gr 6 Up–In her latest collection of poems, Nye mostly characterizes grief. Written during her mother’s decline and after her death, these poems offer tender memories of Nye’s childhood with a chronically depressed parent, reflect on the different ways people mourn, and highlight observations of life’s astonishing moments. Her mother’s depression is revealed in “Freedom”: “Was she still alive?/ This was the bad secret I carried./ She might not be. I needed to check./ You could never tell your friends./ Before I was born, my mama tried to die./ I had to check on her.” In “New,” Nye is hopeful: “It’s unexplored territory,/ this beautiful grief/ of all this new space.” This autobiographical collection also includes Nye’s backstory as the child of a Palestinian father and American mother, as well as a few mentions of the current war in Gaza. Writing sometimes in the second person, the poet brings readers directly into the perfectly selected words’ grasp. Ultimately, these graceful poems are love letters to families past and present. Small but profound messages are revealed in a way only poetry can express.
VERDICT An essential purchase for middle/junior high school and teen collections. This may not be a high-circulation item, but it will be a lifeline for astute poetry lovers.

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