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Book Title


Author 1
Courtney Faye Taylor
Poem Excerpt
And when I found her name, fear had me
rip a switch from its yard. Fear had me
creased over a knee to be depleted.
I was mad. 
Mad felt out of place like God in a sitcom                                                                                               
or hair in a wound. But in the country of my                                                                                                
hurt, “mad” can mean “very much.”
mad affected       mad offended      mad afflicted.
I was mad in awe of all them eyes     
on this Black girl’s broke down life.

—from "Arizona?"
In her virtuosic debut, Courtney Faye Taylor explores the under-told history of the murder of Latasha Harlins—a fifteen-year-old Black girl killed by a Korean shop owner, Soon Ja Du, after being falsely accused of shoplifting a bottle of orange juice. Harlins’s murder and the following trial, which resulted in no prison time for Du, were inciting incidents of the 1992 Los Angeles uprising, and came to exemplify the long-fraught relationship between Black and Asian American communities in the United States. Through a collage-like approach to collective history and storytelling, Taylor’s poems present a profound look into the insidious points at which violence originates against—and between—women of color.

Concentrate displays an astounding breadth of form and experimentation in found texts, micro-essays, and visual poems, merging worlds and bending time in order to interrogate inexorable encounters with American patriarchy and White supremacy manifested as sexual and racially charged violence. These poems demand absolute focus on Black womanhood’s relentless refusal to be unseen, even and especially when such luminosity exposes an exceptional vulnerability to harm and erasure. Taylor’s inventive, intimate book radically reconsiders the cost of memory, forging a path to a future rooted in solidarity and possibility. “Concentrate,” she writes. “We have decisions to make. Fire is that decision to make.”

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Winner of the 2021 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, selected by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

About the Author

Courtney Faye Taylor
Credit: Lucas Carpenter
Courtney Faye Taylor is a writer and visual artist. She is the winner of the Discover/Boston Review Poetry Prize and an Academy of American Poets Prize. Her work can be found in Poetry, the Nation, Best New Poets 2020, and elsewhere.
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  • “This is not the cold archival work of gathering facts from acid-free boxes but archive as grieving, improvisation, autobiography and kinship. In examining Harlins’ life, Taylor also creates a mirror or double of her own.”—Ryan Lee Wong, Los Angeles Times
  • “A provocative and visually fascinating book. . . . This is a book you need to read and see in its entirety.”—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
  • “This is a monumental work in the vein of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen from a remarkable new talent.”Publishers Weekly 
  • “Arresting and powerful. . . . Simply put, one of the best books this reviewer has read in the last 12 months.”—Library Journal, starred review
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