Jubilee reviewed in the Washington Post!

“Like her idol, Sandra Cisneros, Bianca wants to be a voice for her people, the Mexican American working-class residents of Southern California … Givhan manages to tell a story about Mexicali culture that, by focusing on one young woman’s hope, avoids cultural generalizations and tells, instead, a story of family growth and personal triumph.”

–The Washington Post


Read the review here.

I’m thrilled and buoyed to celebrate with you the birthday of a book that’s been my heartwork for the past twenty years. JUBILEE is inspired by my girlhood as a Chicana growing up on the Mexicali border of Southern California, experiencing the cultural stigmas in the Mexican-American community toward teenage sexuality, childbearing, abortions, miscarriages, and violent relationships with machismo boys and men. As a survivor of assault and an abusive relationship, I needed to write a book that grappled with the complexities of trauma and how cultural, religious, and familial norms affect healing.

The idea for JUBILEE was born while I was researching maternal trauma and encountered Reborn dolls used as therapy for women who’d experienced childloss. These dolls are often custom-made, and the artists who create them advertise that they can recreate a replica of a child from a photograph. Women who collect or adopt Reborns sometimes carry them around as if they are “real” babies, strolling them around the park, strapping them in car seats, and so on. Partners often participate, for the sake of their beloveds. As a mother who’s experienced infertility and pregnancy loss, the whole Reborn concept was incredibly compelling to me, and I wondered, what would happen psychologically if a woman really couldn’t tell the difference between a Reborn and her “real” child. In other words, what if this Reborn was real…

Over a decade, during which time I adopted my son, birthed my daughter, earned an MFA in Poetry, drafted and sold another novel, and never, ever, ever gave up on JUBILEE. I was exceedingly proud of the first draft of this novel, the first sustained piece of fiction I ever wrote, because I completed an entire draft in less than a month for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). And although it took nine years nearly to the month to see publication and has  been a long, arduous road, I’ve kept the faith, and I’m so dang proud of my mama writer self. Finally now, twenty years after living it, almost ten years after setting it to paper—Jubilee is ready to go home.

I hope that Bianca’s story and her experiences with Jubilee will inspire you as they have me—and give you the courage to create what’s real and truly beautiful in this world.  Whether in this life or the one we create in our hearts and minds—in our imaginations. I want readers to walk away from the story with a sense of who and what Jubilee is in their own lives and why she is such an important and potent symbol for the power of hope—what keeps us going, what keeps us loving, what keeps us alive.

Jubilee coming this October 6th! Pre-order available now…

https://www.blackstonepublishing.com/media/wysiwyg/books-2020/jubilee/jubilee-banner.jpg

”I never thought I’d see the Great Mexicali Novel. Jennifer Givhan teaches us new things about borders, including the shadowy borders of the mind. Intense.” ~Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The House of Broken Angels

”A deeply affecting and ultimately uplifting novel. Givhan’s beautiful prose vividly renders a Southern California not often seen in literature.” ~Toni Margarita Plummer, author of The Bolero of Andi Rowe

Jubilee by Jennifer Givhan

When Bianca appears late one night at her brother’s house in Santa Ana, she is barely conscious, though not alone. Jubilee, wrapped in a fuzzy pink romper, is buckled into a car seat. Jubilee, who Bianca feeds and clothes and bathes and loves. Jubilee, who Bianca could not leave behind. Jubilee, a doll in her arms.

Told in alternating points of view, Jubilee reveals both the haunting power of our lived experiences and the surreal possibility of the present to heal the past.

The first thread, “Before Jubilee,” follows Bianca in her girlhood home on the Mexicali border as she struggles with her high school sweetheart, Gabe, and a secret they’ve shared since she was fifteen.

The second thread, “With Jubilee,” is told from the point of view of her new love, Joshua, who along with Bianca’s family helps her cope with a mysterious trauma by accepting Jubilee as part of the family. As Joshua’s love for Bianca grows, he fears that Jubilee has the power to tear his tiny family apart.

Alternating chapters give readers a unique perspective on Bianca’s present and on her relationship with Jubilee as her past life with Gabe comes to a catastrophic end.

Jubilee is at once a darkly suspenseful psychological drama and a luminous reflection on how beauty emerges from even the most traumatic of experiences.

Order now from Blackstone Publishing! Available at Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound, Amazon, Hudson Booksellers, and more!

Jennifer Givhan

Jennifer Givhan

Jennifer Givhan, a National Endowment for the Arts and PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices fellow, is a Mexican American writer and activist from the Southwestern desert. She is the author of four full-length poetry collections: Landscape with Headless Mama (2015 Pleiades Editors’ Prize), Protection Spell (2016 Miller Williams Poetry Prize Series edited by Billy Collins), Girl with Death Mask (2017 Blue Light Books Prize chosen by Ross Gay), and Rosa’s Einstein (Camino Del Sol Poetry Series, 2019). Her honors include the Frost Place Latinx Scholarship, a National Latinx Writers’ Conference Scholarship, the Lascaux Review Poetry Prize, Phoebe Journal’s Greg Grummer Poetry Prize chosen by Monica Youn, the Pinch Poetry Prize chosen by Ada Limón, and ten Pushcart nominations. Her work has appeared in Best of the Net, Best New Poets, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, Ploughshares, Poetry, TriQuarterly, Boston Review, AGNI, Crazyhorse, Witness, Southern Humanities Review, Missouri Review, and the Kenyon Review. Givhan holds a master’s degree in English from California State University Fullerton and an MFA from Warren Wilson College, and she can be found discussing feminist motherhood at JenniferGivhan.com as well as on Facebook and Twitter @JennGivhan.

I’m making you a newsletter! Sign up here…

18 Email Newsletter Examples We Love Getting in Our InboxesWelcome to Jennifer’s Newsletter by me, Jennifer Givhan. Poet, she/her, novelist, mama, Chicana feminist, bruja y curandera, author of the novels TRINITY SIGHT & JUBILEE (Blackstone Publishing).

Sign up now so you don’t miss the first issue.

In the meantime, tell your friends!

Trinity Sight shortlisted for Reading the West Book Awards in Adult Fiction!

Trinity Sight vote

See the shortlisted novels. Vote now! Winners announced May 20th!

“Poet Givhan’s first novel is a unique take on dystopian fiction, weaving the culture of Pueblo peoples into an adventurous, apocalyptic page-turner. Lyrical writing and exceptional plotting make this #OwnVoices novel highly recommended for all fiction collections.”–Booklist, Starred Review

Merry Xmas, Headless Mama Returns, & Stranger Things

“O burst O pop O clank
O fuck my swollen bell of  brain. If no candles light
when we scratch the match, has God forsaken?”

(You can read the whole poem here, online at the POETRY Foundation).

Stranger Things Xmas lights Ouija (2)

As a mama poet, I struggle sometimes with feeling less important or relevant or current than if I were writing about other than my experiences raising my children & healing my childhood wounds as I usher my loves through this world, & together we build altars & lay to rest old wounds as we raise the dead into this living & our arms to whatever praise we can find.

I know deep in my heartgut that mama poems are damn important and culturally/socially/emotionally relevant, and I’m so grateful, always, for readers who see/feel the truths my family & I offer in my work. But sometimes when the accolades seem ever evasive & the funds dry up, I forget. In my exhaustion & fear & dailiness, I forget.

This month though, I’ve had the deep joy of publishing my newest work “Headless Mama Returns [Xmas 19 Redux]” in POETRY, my dream magazine, and recording the poem & process for their podcast (you can listen to it at the POETRY Foundation, here). I’m listening to it now, & hearing venerated, respected, wonderfully empathetic poet & editor Don Share talk about the ways in which my poem short-circuits the cultural detritus surrounding our myths about the holiday season & gets to the necessary marrow of mothering — well my mama heart couldn’t be any brighter, even through trauma-induced & seasonal depression, even through difficult suicidal ideations & the deep physical and emotional pain of chronic illness, the Universe/God has reminded me of the importance of my work here, & I couldn’t be more grateful.

Thank you, all, loves, & I hope you’ll take a listen & share. xoJenn

p.s., I discuss STRANGER THINGS in this podcast, as this poem was inspired by my investigation into the Upside Down of this show I adore, which I liken to duende & the underbelly & the hero’s journey — & I’m teaching this, my favorite workshop, online this coming January 2020 through The Poetry Barn. xoxo

TRINITY SIGHT trailer!

 
TRINITY SIGHT has a trailer!!! Y’all! I’m over the moon for this dream come true ~ though my heart breaks for what we’ve done to our beautiful Mother.

 

“When the Earth has had enough, she will shake her troubles off. She will shake her troublemakers off…”

 

 

Order from Blackstone Publishing
 
Order from Amazon

 

Quinceañera with Baby Fever up at Salon!

 

An excerpt from my memoir is up at Salon!

I wanted the sparkling dress, a princess crown, the man of honor. And I wanted my boyfriend to want a baby with me…

 

HAiliFier Women's Generous Gold Lace Appplique Quinceanera Dress ...

 

 

Two interviews with Jenn Givhan

“I’m so grateful that my own inner journey connected with the ancients’—and that I’ve been able to glean a different perspective on dystopian fiction from a Latinx/indigenous perspective, centering us in our lands.”

Trinity Sight coverJenn Givhan author photorosa 1

I have two books out this year, & in these two interviews I discuss the processes of writing poetry & fiction & black holes!

Interview with Inklette Magazine for International Women’s Day:

“Alongside these forebears, I strive to weave together a multilayered song of endurance, survival, and, ultimately, celebration sung by the many women of color working together in the resistance.”

Interview with Arizona University Press:

“This collection is a lovesong for all precocious girls wandering the deserts, creating ruckuses and circuses and finding love where before there was only pain— for all the lost daughters of time, reclaiming ourselves, singing ourselves, triumphant. This is our hero’s journey.”

You can buy ROSA’S EINSTEIN from Amazon or any major bookstore, and preorder TRINITY SIGHT now.

All the writerly love & light,

Jenn  ♥

 

TRINITY SIGHT now available for pre-order!

My debut novel TRINITY SIGHT is available for pre-order from Blackstone Publishing! I’m over-the-moon!!! Here is a link for IndieBound, which helps support small bookstores. It is also available on Amazon.

My Blackstone Publishing Dream Team!

Wishing For More & Never Enough—

Jenn Givhan

Wishing For More & Never Enough—                                                                                               

 

What more did I want than this, child? Than you stretched

taffy horizontal across my bed, a little black chihuahua

on your lap? What miracle would I erase

for a sizzling new day, a razzle in the heart & another

day’s fade. My mother dipped her napkin into a glass of ice

water before rubbing dirt or jelly from my face. I use

spit. On a plain thumb. Rub vigorously. & not only

when your eyelashes have fallen, child, do I grasp wishes.

I pluck your lashes out. I do. You blink & there I go

with my tweezers for fingers. What did you wish for

Mama, in your little bird’s rasp when we press our damp

hands together & the lash sticks to mine & I hold it

triumphant. The wish used to be you. I used to wish for you.

The ache now: When I tell you my wish, you say

that was yours too.

 

 

 

Rosa’s Einstein (Camino del Sol Poetry Series)

rosa's einstein update

Available from University of Arizona Press (30% off with code AZFLR)

Also available at Amazon & other major booksellers.

~

Rosa’s Einstein is a Latinx retelling of the Brothers Grimm’s Snow-White and Rose-Red, reevaluating border, identity, and immigration narratives through the unlikely amalgamation of physics and fairy tale.

In this full-length poetry collection, the girls of Rosa’s Einstein embark on a quest to discover what is real and what is possible in the realms of imagination, spurred on by scientific curiosity and emotional resilience. Following a structural narrative arc inspired by the archetypal hero’s journey, sisters Rosa and Nieve descend into the desert borderlands of New Mexico to find resolution and healing through a bold and fearless examination of the past, meeting ghostly helpers and hinderers along the way. These metaphorical spirits take the shape of circus performers, scientists, and Lieserl, the lost daughter Albert Einstein gave away.

Poet Jennifer Givhan reimagines the life of Lieserl, weaving her search for her scientist father with Rosa and Nieve’s own search for theirs. Using details both from Einstein’s known life and from quantum physics, Givhan imagines Lieserl in a circus-like landscape of childhood trauma and survival, guided by Rosa and Nieve.

~

“Raise a glass, sit in Alice’s just-vacated seat, and sip Givhan’s heady home brew, slipping yourself through yourself to sift through her poems’ generous gifts of light. In our only and ever more burdened earth, this book is a welcome and welcoming cry in the night, calling all time bandits: We live in a universe still expanding! Come in. Welcome home.”—Julie Sophia Paegle, author of Twelve Clocks

 

Rosa’s Einstein is lush, lurid with color, ‘flowerfisted,’ feminist, and bomb-blast bright. ‘[B]raiding history with myth / like ribbons through plaits,’ Jennifer Givhan turns her keen eyes to time—the science and magic of it—and invents something wholly (and holy) original. This book is seared into my brain.”—Maggie Smith, author of Good Bones

 

“Jennifer Givhan’s voice is desperately needed, at this moment more than ever, and in Rosa’s Einstein she ambitiously tackles physics, fairy tales, immigration, nuclear bombs, and time travel in one vivid and marvelous collection.”—Jeannine Hall Gailey, author of Field Guide to the End of the World

 

“Highly inventive, super obsessive, and beautifully written, this book of poems is a sleek animal you will find yourself panting behind, chasing Jennifer Givhan as she reclaims history, teaches Albert Einstein to dance cumbia, and makes a ghost sister, Nieve, from the fallout of the Trinity explosion.”—Carrie Fountain, author of Burn Lake

 

Girl With Death Mask now an audio book!

Girl with Death Mask audio book announcement

Dear friends,

My heartbeat has been set. My first ever audio book is alive. & I’m a grateful poeta.

You can sample & find more info here.

All the poetry love & light,

Jenn

The Poetry Collection is a Place for Disparities, Or Let It Bleed

Image result for imperial valley date farm

When I originally compiled my first collection Landscape with Headless Mama, I imagined the book very differently, called it Red Sun Mothers, and divided it into sections based on the experiences of different mother-entities in Mexican/American culture, including the infertile woman (or adoptive mother) and the psychologically-socially unstable mother (La Llorona—Mexican Medea figure). I began the collection before I adopted my son, and it was published when he was nine-years-old, so it was in flux all those years. And as the collection progressed while I raised my children, I realized the divisions were not so clearly delineated. Even after becoming a mother, sometimes the grief of miscarriage seeped through, and even in joy, there was also exhaustion and uncertainty, which sometimes gave way to fear and anxiety-induced mental illness, near breaks with reality, so that La Llorona was never as far from the supposedly stable mother as she might at first seem.

In the meantime, I read contemporary collections that struck deep chords and inspired new ways of seeing the shape of my poems as individuals and together—books like Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard, Julia Alvarez’s Homecoming, Patricia Smith’s Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, and Claudia Emerson’s Late Wife. Reading these collections and then looking back to my own material, I found that my poems showed me how many conflicting desires and facets of truth/experience they could hold at once, how they could negotiate these borderland spaces where nothing is as clearly defined as we might wish—motherhood is messy, and the book showed me how to embrace that via the structure—so that Mama’s story bleeds into the speaker’s own, and it’s never entirely clear whether the speaker is the mother or the daughter. That bleeding uncertainty is purposeful and came after many years of trying structure after structure until I found the perfect one that asked each poem to do multiple layers of work.

Think of your poetry collection as a world, as a landscape, as a city, a room. Think as large or small as you need to for your poems to become as important and personal as they need to be for you to see them as a whole. By this I mean they should each carry a shape, a weight, a specific texture and color and smell within the collection, the way a place or character in your birthplace or childhood hometown would; think back to your street. On mine, Rio Vista, there were date palms, purplish jewels fallen to the dirt lot that separated the neighborhood from a dirt hill that led down to the New River, polluted and toxic carrying waste from the border, forty minutes away, bleeding socio-political alongside the glowing, dying fish.

Each poem in a collection occupies space in this world, and thereby offers up its significance, connected in some tangible way to those residing beside it. In mine: the house I grew up in, the neighbors’ houses where I experienced abuses and made lifelong friends, those palm trees dropping those squishy fruits that still remind me of the cockroaches infesting our bathrooms summerlong, the packed-earth hills I slid on my backside to the riverbanks below, where some still believe La Llorona herself haunts, and on those mud-cracked banks, the blood of her children.

See how I’ve gone from most personal home to most socially-connected river, with its border politics, its cultural myths—but they’re interlinked, my home beside that polluted water.

There are any number of ways you could order the space you’ve created—it’s your world, after all. My collections often begin with the most personal and yet I believe the personal is inherently political. In this way, a narrative begins to emerge, and carry with it the undercurrent of deeper troubled waters. I don’t recommend you stick only to chronology. I’ve found that any chronological order that arises in my collections comes after finding deeper and more nuanced connections in the spaces between the poems. For example, in Landscape with Headless Mama, chronology came after discovering that Mama and the speaker’s stories were interwoven. Then I could tell multiple stories at once. A clear chronology felt too facile; I’d tried that at one point and it didn’t feel honest in the way that the imagination can sometimes get at deeper truths than nonfiction. Instead, the chronology in the structure comes from a narrative underpinning. I love story—the power of story. And it was important to me that in telling my own story, I was speaking the truths of my own mother(s)—the women I grew up with in the Imperial Valley and in my own Mexican-American familia, even when the stories were nonlinear and messy.

A poetry collection is a place for disparities and oppositions and paradoxes to coexist and coalesce and stretch us to find new ways of existing within the flux. So even your most contentious, paradoxical poems can work together if you’re finding how they fit in the larger space. If you cannot find the connections even in the breaking places, then perhaps those poems are not meant for this particular world, and you should save them for another. I’ve found that poems I took out of my first collection ended up fitting perfectly in my second and beyond. My third collection, for example, retells some of Mama’s story but from a new angle, for compiling each collection has required of me stretching and seeing and re-seeing in new ways.

A manuscript consultation client asked me whether or not her poems of being an abused daughter fit in a collection so clearly about a mother caring for a child with special needs. She’d received conflicting advice from her mentor and felt torn about whether or not the differences and breaking places could ever fit together. I said, absolutelyin the world you’ve created. Being a mother is not separate from being a woman. And being a motherwoman is not separate from being a daughtergirl. I’ve found this over and over in my own life and poems. I’ve found the most freedom in my work when I’ve allowed everything to bleed, as I have bled. The past tinges the present, but the strangeness and heart truth is that the present tinges the past. That’s been the heartwork of mothering, for me. Mothering poetry and children.

Keep finding ways to coalesce and shed light and shadow on the different angles of your poems and your life, poets. Keep finding places of connection, where that jeweled date falls from palm to dirt—a hinge between the personal and political—write there.

 

 

 

Poetry as Altar: Creating Space for the Sacred

dia_de_los_muertos_altar

Come write with me online February 2018!

“In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.”—Denise Levertov

Día de los Muertos, retablos, and ofrendas will serve as models for our poems in this workshop. Altars create a sacred space in the home and are used as a place of prayer and worship, reflection and meditation or song. They can function as sites where family history is actively preserved, where loved ones are celebrated and remembered with pictures and artifacts. The Mexican home altar tradition is centuries old, but it is not the only culture to embrace the art of the home altar—Buddhism, Hinduism, Wicca, and Santeria are a few examples of other faiths that have a home altar tradition.

We will explore the altar tradition and build our own poetry altars, following the traditions of many contemporary poets of the sacred such as Kaveh Akbar, Marilyn Nelson, José Araguz, Rigoberto González, Jane Hirshfield, Mary Szybist, Leila Chatti, Ross Gay, and Rosebud Ben-Oni. Join us in laying marigolds and sweet bread and whatever items or images are sacred to you upon the altars of our poems.

4 weeks, online, no set class meetings, work at your own pace, create & receive feedback on four new poems throughout February. $300. Sign up online at The Poetry Barn!

 

 

Previous Older Entries