The Twenty-Ninth Year

Houghton Harcourt. Jan. 2019. 96p. ISBN 9781328511942. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781328512727. POETRY
OrangeReviewStarPalestinian American poet Alyan's first poetry collection (following her multi-award-winning debut novel, Salt House) investigates the titular milestone year in everyone's life, one that was particularly significant to her as she recalls friends and family, forced displacement, and adapting to a new land and language. The poems range widely in style from the almost conversational to more impervious, stylized cryptograms. Alyan moves with grace and courage in her poems, especially in her bare descriptions of a battle with anorexia, the relationship between father and daughter, and the stark realizations she depicts of a young girl tugged between her family's past and a life of American fast food restaurants where she's told how she doesn't fit in. "I am nothing but/ a body" she writes in "Gospel: Beruit" before the poem breaks off with absence, an "only if" without an ending. That lack of resolution defines this entire collection.
VERDICT This is coming-of-age poetry from a voice that resists categorization. It will appeal to a wide range of readers.
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