Review: 1919

1919 1919 by Eve L. Ewing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ewing's poetry serves as a wonderfully nuanced call and response to a work from 1922, The Negro in Chicago: A Study of Race Relations and a Race Riot by the Chicago Commission on Race Relations. Ewing reproduces excerpts from this book and other relevant texts of the time and beyond. Then, she provides a poem that is in dialogue (or even argument, one might say) with the way official records represent, re-present, and misrepresent Black identity and agency. Ewing uses rhythm, wordplay, and rich cultural cues to draw out larger meaning and feeling throughout the works to create a tapestry of vibrant life and experiences of Black people who are wiped from the historical record or presented in a way that can feel caricatured.  Her knack for drawing out what is not said within the report or for reconfiguring the voice from being about Black people to by Black people will resonate with many while also helping others to understand the power of how historical records silence voices. I also strongly recommend getting both the book and audiobook on this one as Ewing narrates it herself, adding inflection, distinct delivery styles, and emphasis throughout the poems that adds another layer of meaning and experience.  However, the book includes photos from the time as well as compelling arrangements of the poems themselves that suggest and hint in ways that will not be evident in the narrations.  

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