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Lessons on Expulsion

Erika L. Sánchez
The vulgarity of the orchid in all of its hooded glory is showy but exquisite.

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.  

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An award-winning and hard-hitting new voice in contemporary American poetry

About the Author

Erika L Sanchez
Credit: Robyn Lindemann
Erika L. Sánchez is a poet, essayist, and fiction writer, and the author of a young adult novel, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. She is a 2017–2019 Princeton Arts Fellow.
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Upcoming Events

Graywolf Poetry Tour at the Bryant Park Reading Room

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The Graywolf Poetry Tour showcases Graywolf poets reading together around the country. Join us for an outstanding event featuring Saskia Hamilton, Matthea Harvey, Erika L. Sánchez, and Susan Stewart on August 14 at the Bryant Park Reading Room.

The Bryant Park Reading Room hosts emerging and established poets throughout the summer with evening readings. Sit under the park's London Plane trees and listen to the artists read their own work.

The Graywolf Poetry Tour at the Bryant Park Reading Room featuring Saskia Hamilton, Matthea Harvey, Erika L. Sanchez, and Susan Stewart

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  • “In lusty verse that startles and caresses, the author—whose parents traveled from Mexico to raise her in Illinois—vivifies the complexities of the immigrant experience.”O, the Oprah Magazine
  • “[A] fierce, assertive debut.”The Washington Post
  • Lessons on Expulsion combines stories of immigration with those of sexual empowerment against a backdrop of surrealist and folkloric dreamscapes. . . . Dynamic poems.”St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • Finalist for the 2018 PEN Open Book Award

    Named a Best Book of 2017 by The Brooklyn Rail and Vol. 1 Brooklyn
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