Lessons on Expulsion
Erika L. Sánchez
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An award-winning and hard-hitting new voice in contemporary American poetry
The first time I ever came the light was weak and carnivorous.
I covered my eyes and the night cleared its dumb throat.
I heard my mother wringing her hands the next morning.
Of course I put my underwear on backwards, of course the elastic didn't work.
What I wanted most at that moment was a sandwich.
But I just nursed on this leather whip.
I just splattered my sheets with my sadness.
—from “Poem of My Humiliations”
“What is life but a cross / over rotten water?” Poet, novelist, and essayist Erika L. Sánchez’s powerful debut poetry collection explores what it means to live on both sides of the border—the border between countries, languages, despair and possibility, and the living and the dead. Sánchez tells her own story as the daughter of undocumented Mexican immigrants and as part of a family steeped in faith, work, grief, and expectations. The poems confront sex, shame, race, and an America roiling with xenophobia, violence, and laws of suspicion and suppression. With candor and urgency, and with the unblinking eyes of a journalist, Sánchez roves from the individual life into the lives of sex workers, narco-traffickers, factory laborers, artists, and lovers. What emerges is a powerful, multifaceted portrait of survival. Lessons on Expulsion is the first book by a vibrant, essential new writer now breaking into the national literary landscape.