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Letters to a Young Brown Girl

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Barbara Jane Reyes answers the questions of Filipino American girls and young women of color with bold affirmations of hard-won empathy, fierce intelligence, and a fine-tuned B.S. detector. The Brown Girl of these poems has is fed up with being shushed, with being constantly told how foreign and unattractive and unwanted she is. She’s flipping tables and throwing chairs. Sh Barbara Jane Reyes answers the questions of Filipino American girls and young women of color with bold affirmations of hard-won empathy, fierce intelligence, and a fine-tuned B.S. detector. The Brown Girl of these poems has is fed up with being shushed, with being constantly told how foreign and unattractive and unwanted she is. She’s flipping tables and throwing chairs. She’s raising her voice. She’s keeping a sharp focus on the violences committed in her everyday, and she’s writing through the depths of her “otherness” to find beauty and even grace amidst her rage. Simultaneously looking into the mirror and out into the world, Reyes exposes the sensitive nerve-endings of life under patriarchy as a visible immigrant woman of color as she reaches towards her center and the core values of her elders.


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Barbara Jane Reyes answers the questions of Filipino American girls and young women of color with bold affirmations of hard-won empathy, fierce intelligence, and a fine-tuned B.S. detector. The Brown Girl of these poems has is fed up with being shushed, with being constantly told how foreign and unattractive and unwanted she is. She’s flipping tables and throwing chairs. Sh Barbara Jane Reyes answers the questions of Filipino American girls and young women of color with bold affirmations of hard-won empathy, fierce intelligence, and a fine-tuned B.S. detector. The Brown Girl of these poems has is fed up with being shushed, with being constantly told how foreign and unattractive and unwanted she is. She’s flipping tables and throwing chairs. She’s raising her voice. She’s keeping a sharp focus on the violences committed in her everyday, and she’s writing through the depths of her “otherness” to find beauty and even grace amidst her rage. Simultaneously looking into the mirror and out into the world, Reyes exposes the sensitive nerve-endings of life under patriarchy as a visible immigrant woman of color as she reaches towards her center and the core values of her elders.

30 review for Letters to a Young Brown Girl

  1. 5 out of 5

    Christian

    This book is my auntie, the one I love to sit next to at family gatherings because everyone must greet her with respect and listen to her biting wisdom. If you are sitting next to her after our relatives continue on to the party, you can listen to her stories and backstories, and her biting wisdom becomes hard truth. It's a scary form of magic. This book is my auntie, the one I love to sit next to at family gatherings because everyone must greet her with respect and listen to her biting wisdom. If you are sitting next to her after our relatives continue on to the party, you can listen to her stories and backstories, and her biting wisdom becomes hard truth. It's a scary form of magic.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Para sa babae. Para sa ‘yo. Para sa loób ng napakatagal ng nanahimik. Tama na. ‘Wag na. Hija, you are seen. Now, make yourself heard.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Erin Kelly

    Reyes’ unapologetic indignation fuels me every time. She freely expresses rage—and all of it is rightful and just. There are no false veneers here. She basically says, “Aren’t you tired? Aren’t you pissed? Yeah, me too.” And I love that. The language is both beautiful and raw—proving that those things can coexist.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Fondakowski

    I love everything about this book - how it scares, challenges, elates, and ignites me...And frankly, I love that there is so much anger here. As someone who was taught to fear anger (both my own, and others') it is essential to learn how to hear it, feel it, honor it, and assert it. Can't heal anything if you don't feel everything first. I love everything about this book - how it scares, challenges, elates, and ignites me...And frankly, I love that there is so much anger here. As someone who was taught to fear anger (both my own, and others') it is essential to learn how to hear it, feel it, honor it, and assert it. Can't heal anything if you don't feel everything first.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tahlia Fehl

    I have recently read “Letters to a Young Brown Girl'' by Barbra Jane Reyes. Her words and poems seem somewhat simple in terms of major themes. She talks about themes that have been spoken about before however, Reyes speakers so directly about all of these issues that it almost seems like thoughts. For half of the book all of the poems were titled as “Brown Girl…” and following there would be an action or verb to describe the types of poems to come. Reyes writes in thought form. For example, in “ I have recently read “Letters to a Young Brown Girl'' by Barbra Jane Reyes. Her words and poems seem somewhat simple in terms of major themes. She talks about themes that have been spoken about before however, Reyes speakers so directly about all of these issues that it almost seems like thoughts. For half of the book all of the poems were titled as “Brown Girl…” and following there would be an action or verb to describe the types of poems to come. Reyes writes in thought form. For example, in “Brown Girl Beginning” (Reyes 17) she puts each thought into sections, “Dalga,” “Bleed,” and “Tomboy.” While each of these sections does fall under the topic of a beginning she still makes a clear separation between them. And this is not the only poem in the book that follows this method. I thought that this style of poem was very interesting because not only did it feel like thoughts written out on paper, it also felt like each paragraph was a note that she wrote and compiled each note into groupings. “Beed” was probably my favorite section of all of her poems. Throughout the poem she was growing up, but as she aged the things that people told her that she needed to be doing continued to get more subjective. Reyes wrote, “When I was eight, they told me to stay in the shade” later followed by “when I was ten I learned to flip my hair, and roll up my skirt at the waist” (17). I liked this poem because it is the simpler actions that can get girls in trouble. Like rolling up a skirt is used in two ways it can be because the waistband is a little loose, or it is to shorten the skirt to show off more leg. And while neither option is bad, it is actions like this that girls learn at a young age that makes us objectified. And in some cases these simple actions that we have been doing since we were young is what people will tell us makes us “sluts” or that we are “asking for it.” Reyes did not have to say any of those harsher words and tones for the reader to understand what those simple actions mean in this world. While the first section of the book all of the titles include “Brown Girl” the following sections of the book all of the titles begin with “Track: ...” And the trach poems in my mind are slightly more poetic. For example in a poem titled “Track: ‘Blood Moon’ Low Leaf (2016)” there isn't as much of Reyes making small gestures at larger issues in the world. She simply talks about the world with romanticised words. Reyes writes “all I have entered into moonlight, calling to fill you, tangling you earthbound, my many branches transcribing dark rooting of lungs bellowing” (38). There is not a single period in this poem and the magical illusions to the moon never end. And perhaps others read this poem and see something more/different than I do but when I read it I don’t see a deeper meaning I just see myself entering that moonlight and getting lost in the beautiful imagery of it all. The final section of the book every poem is titled exactly the same with no additional words. Each poem is titled “Dear Brown Girl.” And these poems seem to be more personal than the others, I feel as though Reyes is trying to get all of her life lessons through to the Brown Girl receiving these messages. And I know as a white female that these messages are not meant for me however, it is so interesting to read about the struggles as a person that I can relate to and those of facing forms of racism that I cannot connect to. But not only is it personalized for the receiving Brown Girl it seems as though Reyes is talking to a younger version of herself by all of the specifics that she writes in these letters. Many times she speaks of her sister and the things that you can find in her room. One line from this grouping of poems that stuck with me was when Reyes wrote, “what if I told you, you don’t have to do as you’re told” (58). I cannot tell you what about it really made me think but after reading that line I wanted to know how, and in what situation did she know that doing what you are told is not always the right thing to do. “Letters to a Young Brown Girl” takes you through three different journeys and with each one you learn something. And perhaps this book isn't for everyone, and certain poems weren’t for me but the book as a whole is rather inspiring. I will definitely be reading this again in my future.

  6. 4 out of 5

    mitch

    With a loud, wondrous voice, this unflinching poetry collection pulsates with anger that mirrors many a young brown girl's, directed towards the whites and privileged folk who contribute to the harmful aggressions that attempt to chip away at a brown girl's worth. Written in multiple languages, this collection speaks truths that are written for the attentive (and possibly also angry) Filipino audience first and foremost. With a loud, wondrous voice, this unflinching poetry collection pulsates with anger that mirrors many a young brown girl's, directed towards the whites and privileged folk who contribute to the harmful aggressions that attempt to chip away at a brown girl's worth. Written in multiple languages, this collection speaks truths that are written for the attentive (and possibly also angry) Filipino audience first and foremost.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Some of my favorite lines: “That fabled Filipina hospitality, so much giving unto others until you are shoeless, penniless, mute, and hollowed out. Hija, you ain’t Jesus, multiplying fishes and loaves.” “5. Some say it is bourgeois privilege for the battleground to be the page. 6. I think the page could be one weapon in our armories.” “65. Let there be no shame in being imperfect.”

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nathalie Santos

    This is poetry I read to uplift myself, to enrage myself, to see myself and I keep returning to this book ever so often just to pick up on the electric verses in this collection. Fantastic!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joy

  10. 5 out of 5

    Peluchi

  11. 4 out of 5

    Zeline

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cornelio

  13. 5 out of 5

    Frances Castillo

  14. 4 out of 5

    Benito Jr.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jade

  16. 4 out of 5

    Leanna

  17. 5 out of 5

    Raychelle

  18. 5 out of 5

    Harley Claes

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nikolai Garcia

  20. 4 out of 5

    Elisa

  21. 4 out of 5

    Christiana Castillo

  22. 5 out of 5

    Paula Mirando

  23. 4 out of 5

    Genevieve Hartman

  24. 4 out of 5

    K.S.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Juan Morales

  26. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

  27. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  28. 5 out of 5

    Liz Blake

  29. 5 out of 5

    Elisabeth

  30. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

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