✯ RIVER WOMAN, RIVER DEMON ✯
(Blackstone Publishing, 2022)
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Bookshop.org | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Book
Finalist for the New Mexico–Arizona Book Award for Mystery & Thriller
A Good Housekeeping Pick of Fall’s Must-Read Books
A Ms. Magazine Pick of the Month’s Reads for the Rest of Us
A Sarah Selects Pick of the Month
A Good Housekeeping Pick of 22 Best Books by Latinx Authors to Read beyond Hispanic Heritage Month
A Barnes & Noble Pick of Best Audiobooks for Hispanic Heritage Month
A BuzzFeed Books Pick of Best Books of the Month
A Betches.com Pick of Fall Books
A Goodreads Pick for Hispanic Heritage Month
A Yahoo!Life Pick of Fascinating Books by Latinx Authors
A We Are Bookish Pick of Fall & Winter Must-Reads
A Rap Sheet Pick of Fall Crime, Mystery, & Thrillers
A CrimeReads Pick of This Week’s Best New Books
A Foreword Reviews Pick of the Day
When Eva’s husband is arrested for the murder of a friend, she must confront her murky past and embrace her magick to find out what really happened that night on the river.
Eva Santos Moon is a burgeoning Chicana artist who practices the ancient, spiritual ways of brujería and curanderisma, but she’s at one of her lowest points—suffering from disorienting blackouts, creative stagnation, and a feeling of disconnect from her magickal roots. When her husband, a beloved university professor and the glue that holds their family together, is taken into custody for the shocking murder of their friend, Eva doesn’t know whom to trust—least of all, herself. She soon falls under suspicion as a potential suspect, and her past rises to the surface, dredging up the truth about an eerily similar death from her childhood.
Struggling with fragmented memories and self-doubt, an increasingly terrified Eva fears that she might have been involved in both murders. But why doesn’t she remember? Only the dead women know for sure, and they’re coming for her with a haunting vengeance. As she fights to keep her family out of danger, Eva realizes she must use her magick as a bruja to protect herself and her loved ones, while confronting her own dark history.
A psychological thriller that weaves together the threads of folk magick with personal and cultural empowerment, River Woman, River Demon is a mysterious incantation of reckoning with the past and claiming one’s unique power and voice.
“A murder mystery with organic roots in the otherworldly.
Eva Santos Moon is a glass blower by trade and a bruja by heritage. Her husband, Jericho, a college professor, also runs a Magick shop, and they have two wonderful children whose names begin with X. But no amount of protection they can summon will help when they discover the body of Eva’s friend Cecelia in the river behind their house and Jericho is immediately arrested for her murder. There are all the expected thrills and chills as well as some unexpected ones, but the real gift here is Givhan’s command of language. She employs gorgeous metaphors and crass slang with precision. In a similar way, the mystical and the earthly are seamlessly intertwined, in place as well as in plot. It’s not often that we get a story of hoodoo and conjuring that presents these as religious elements rather than sensational ones. Eva embodies these complexities as well; she’s a memorable and multifaceted heroine.
Sharp as glass shards and lush as the desert after the rain, the writing is the true magic here.” —KIRKUS, Starred Review ★
“Featuring lush, evocative prose…River Woman, River Demon is a seamless psychological and supernatural thriller about resilience and personal empowerment.”—Foreword, Starred Review ★
“Jenn Givhan is a powerful conjurer of words. In River Woman, River Demon she has woven a tale rich in culture, folklore, and social relevance. Intriguing, suspenseful, and inspiring, the novel reminds us that no matter how dark life may become, we don’t need to be perfect and we don’t have to fight every battle alone to rise toward the light.” —Rudy Ruiz, award-winning author of The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez and Valley of Shadows
“Jennifer Givhan has invoked a delectable spellbinder. River Woman, River Demon is a conjuring of equal parts murder mystery, brujería, sex and romance, hauntings and terror, femme empowerment, all with a dash of Northern New Mexican cooking. ¡Buen provecho!” —Ana Castillo, award-winning author of So Far from God
“In River Woman, River Demon, Givhan writes: ‘For us folks of color, conjuring isn’t entertainment; it’s the brass key pointing us to freedom.’ And with this novel Givhan wholly embodies this thesis, manifesting a richly textured exploration of personal pain, trauma, and loss, while capturing that slippery dream-like beyond that people of color feel in our bones.
River Woman, River Demon is a major working, a novel both visceral and revelatory.”—Cadwell Turnbull, award-winning author of The Lesson and No Gods, No Monsters
“River Woman, River Demon is a magickal, murky, mystifying Between the Worlds page-turner that captivated me from the start. Jennifer Givhan has crafted characters that you believe are as authentic as the Magick sprinkled throughout her thrilling tale. I have dog-eared pages of the heroine’s rituals, spells, and potions to try later whenever I feel the need for self-empowerment, connection to the Ancestors, or protection, even if, or perhaps, especially if, that means safeguarding from my own self-doubt. I loved the chisme of the real-life Magickal community and hooted for the “mic drop” lessons that debunked the media’s ridiculous portrayals of Witchcraft. This book took me on a journey with a real bruja heroine, Eva Moon Santos, who could be my Chicana Witch Sista. I literally clapped and cheered her on because the story feels so real and I resonated deeply with the message that Magick is a reclamation of individual power and self-belief, especially for people of color. We all have root Magick. We just have to tap in.
As its title suggests, River Woman, River Demon explores the nebulous and dubious realms. This book is an invitation to the liminal space, the mysterious magickal realm where we can hear, sense, and feel the messages from the natural and supernatural worlds. You may fall into the book, as I did, and dream you are entangled in Eva’s confusion of what is real, just like in The Sixth Sense. Then clarity arises, like a phoenix, and finding your voice and claiming your power is how you rise above. Thank you Jenn for penning this wonderfully-written Magickal ride full of red herrings, plot twists, and authentic Magick in the Shadowlands.” —Jamie Della, author of The Book of Spells: The Magick of Witchcraft
“The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina meets Stephen King. I couldn’t put this down – partly because the writing was immersive and atmospheric, partly because of how the loveable-yet-flawed characters drew me into their lives and I didn’t want to leave, and party because I was too scared to stop reading!
This psychological thriller is steeped in Magick, but not as you’d see in a Hollywood movie. There is bruja witchcraft, curandera healing, Hoodoo, all of it claimed by the cultures that formed the practices over generations of folk wisdom and tradition. The inequalities of our criminal justice system are called out, and the ancestral strength of women, particularly women of color, is celebrated and revered. The writing was superb, with a unique voice that is lyrical, sensual, and dark with a touch of grunge. I don’t usually go for thrillers, but the magic, mystery, and social commentary had me intrigued – and I am SO glad I picked this up.” —Goodreads/Andrea Gagne
“I want to be clear that I do not typically read thrillers (although I have been known to) and I would consider this book a Paranormal Thriller, that being said, I was blown away. I could not put this book down, I was lost in Eva’s confusion and along with her, I just wanted to know the truth.” —Goodreads/Steph Bauer
“Givhan’s River Woman, River Demon is full of unexpected magick, hauntings, and secrets as a woman makes sense of her past and her power. I loved figuring out with her what exactly she was capable of.” —Sarah Blake, author of Clean Air
“There were scenes in this book that had my stomach completely tied up in knots. I don’t know how our author was able to pull that off…” —Goodreads/Jamie Park
“Exquisite writing, genre-bending horror/fantasy/mystery. Very much enjoyed reading this book. The writing is just amazing, in its particularity and the vividness of its images. The blending of Anglo, Black and Latin cultures (including various types of witchcraft) makes for a very compelling read. The main characters are well drawn and have unique voices.” —Goodreads/Lynn Hall
“This book is a stunner. Thank you, Jenn Givhan, for creating a book of such power, spirituality, mystery, intersectional thoughtfulness, and resonance. ” —Angelique Zobitz, author of Love Letters to the Revolution
“Wow! I grabbed River Woman, River Demon from Reedsy on an impulse because the cover looked SO good. I’m ecstatic to have taken the risk here because this was a phenomenal read. Written by Jennifer Givhan, this is not a book to miss out on. The inclusion of Magick only helped to make the story all the more complex. It added layers to the world, the plot, and the characters. All while helping to obfuscate the truth behind it all. It was perfect. I will be recommending it to all my reader friends (especially those that like thrillers/fantasy). So, go read it!” —Reedsy, “Must Read” Five-Star Review
BELLY TO THE BRUTAL (2022) is available from Wesleyan University Press. You can also order from Bookshop.org, Barnes & Noble, or wherever books are sold.
Poetry for all the mothers and daughters healing the bloodlines
Belly to the Brutal sings a corrido of the love between mothers and daughters, confronting the learned complicity with patriarchal violence passed down from generation to generation. This poetry edges into the borderlands, touching the realm of chora—humming, screaming, rhythm—transporting the words outside of patriarchal and racist constructs. Drawing from curanderisma and a revived wave of feminist brujería, Jennifer Givhan creates a healing space for Brown women and mothers. Each poem finds its own form, interweaving beauty and devastation to create a pathway out of the systems that have for too long oppressed women. The poems dwell in the thick language of “motherfear,” “where love grows too / in the shining center of the wound.” This poetry of invocation moves toward a transformation of violence that is ultimately redemptive.
“In Belly to the Brutal, Jennifer Givhan explores the questions of gender, language, and motherhood. These are precarious and gorgeous poems, stylistically varied and image-drenched—a speaker who’s an adjunct teacher living in her car, a mother who discovers an unexplained bruise on her daughter’s arm and seeks its source, the little-known Mexican woman painter who inspired Frida Kahlo. With the dark humor of a good witch, Givhan offers the ‘hallelujah hellflowering’ we’ve been needing.”—Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs
“Belly to the Brutal is a collection of raw and mystical materialism in its exploration of motherhood’s continuum: from creation to destruction. The frankness is profound and inspiring, the lyric voice lucid. Givhan gets at the eros and terror of being mother through a harrowing excavation into her body’s history. Her poems remind me of Frida Kahlo’s flayed and ecstatic self-portraits. I love this book with my salt.”—Carmen Giménez Smith, author of Be Recorder
JUBILEE (Blackstone Publishing, 2020) is available from Indie Bound, Barnes and Noble, your local brick and mortal bookstores, or as a signed copy directly from Jenn (Venmo @Jennifer-Givhan or PayPal below)
Honorable Mention for 2021 The Rudolfo Anaya Best Latino Focused Fiction Book Award category from the International Latino Book Awards Foundation
2021 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards Finalist in Literary Fiction
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 15.
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 listeners 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.
“From its heart-pounding opening, poet Givhan’s second novel (after Trinity Sight) leads readers into the dark recesses of Bianca’s traumatic experiences and subsequent healing.” —Library Journal
“The latest work from award-winning poet and writer Jennifer Givhan is an intense and vibrant psychological thriller. Givhan shines a brilliant light on Mexicali voices that are so often missing in contemporary literary fiction.” —Ms. Magazine
“[An] intense, artfully woven psychological drama…Bianca’s repeated meditations on bodies of water as a source of life (”Rivers take, yes, but rivers bring back”) and the echoes of lines from Cisneros add rich lyrical layers to the fast-paced plot. Givhan rewards readers with an intense, fiery story.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“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
“An elegantly crafted novel by an author with an impressive set of narrative-driven storytelling skills, Jennifer Givhan’s Jubilee is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and college/university library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.” —Midwest Book Review
“An exquisite story of loss and healing, Jubilee explores the unmatched power of a parent’s love as a woman navigates a mysterious trauma manifesting in the belief that a doll is her daughter. This book is at once an engrossing page-turner and an empowering love letter to women — those who know their strength, and those who fight to discover it. Jennifer Givhan is a gorgeous and passionate storyteller whose shimmering lyricism enchants the reader on every page.” —Megan Collins, author of The Winter Sister and Behind the Red Door
“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.” —Washington Post
“Givhan, who, like her protagonist, is a poet, paints a surrealist canvas with vivid colors, even invoking images from artists such as Frida Kahlo and Remedios Varo. The richness of her language and her eye for nuance animate her depictions of both the bleak exterior landscape of California’s Imperial Valley and the bleak interior landscape of Bianca’s damaged soul. Through it all, Givhan has forged a compelling tension between psychological drama and romance that makes for a riveting read.” —BookPage
“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
“Thought-provoking…Givhan expertly plays her cast of characters against one another, using small, personal moments to create seismic emotional shifts all while slowly unraveling the truth about Bianca’s past and Jubilee’s place in her life.” —Booklist
“With a poet’s gift for language and a cinematic eye for the texture of life in the California borderlands, Givhan has created a novel in which the grit of daily existence is inextricably entwined with the power of the mythic. The complex, nuanced characters in Jubilee draw us into a woman’s haunted past where trauma may have the capacity to wreck a life, but imagination has the ability to save it. A strikingly original, memorable novel.” —Sarah Pemberton Strong, author of The Fainting Room
“An underrated gem” —Amazon reader
TRINITY SIGHT (Blackstone Publishing, 2019) is available from Indie Bound, Barnes and Noble, your local brick and mortal bookstores, or as a signed copy directly from Jenn (Venmo @Jennifer-Givhan or PayPal below)
Winner of the 2020 Southwest Book Award
Short-listed for the 2019 Reading the West Book Award for Adult Fiction
Finalist for the 2021 New Mexico—Arizona Book Award for Adventure/Drama Fiction, New Mexico Historical Fiction, and Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
A High Country News Pick of This Season’s Best Reads
A BookRiot Pick of Books That Helped Me Find Meaning in Motherhood
An i09 Pick of Fall SSF Books
A Library Journal Editor’s Pick for Fall
A Publishers Weekly Pick for Fall in Science Fiction and Fantasy
A Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice of the Month
A Goodreads Pick for Top Latinx Reads for Fall
A Literary Hub Pick of the Week
A Booklist Pick of the Week
“Our people are survivors”, Calliope’s great-grandmother once told her of their Puebloan roots – could Bisabuela’s ancient myths be true?
Anthropologist Calliope Santiago awakens to find herself in a strange and sinister wasteland, a shadow of the New Mexico she knew. Empty vehicles litter the road. Everyone has disappeared – or almost everyone. Calliope, heavy-bellied with the twins she carries inside her, must make her way across this dangerous landscape with a group of fellow survivors, confronting violent inhabitants, in search of answers. Long-dead volcanoes erupt, the ground rattles and splits, and monsters come to ominous life. The impossible suddenly real, Calliope will be forced to reconcile the geological record with the heritage she once denied if she wants to survive and deliver her unborn babies into this uncertain new world.
Rooted in indigenous oral-history traditions and contemporary apocalypse fiction, Trinity Sight asks listeners to consider science versus faith and personal identity versus ancestral connection. Lyrically written and utterly original, Trinity Sight brings readers to the precipice of the end-of-times and the hope for redemption.
“A vivid, thought-provoking story that feels both intensely real and sublimely magical. I didn t realize how much I was craving a completely original story like this one!” – Mia Sheridan, New York Times bestselling author
“A rocket-fueled, indigenous-culture inspired Mad Max—what a ride! Jennifer Givhan drives us through a hellish vision of our country’s future by way of our ancestors past. Fierce, wrenching, and written with a poet’s eye for transformation and grace, inside this page-turner are the lessons the land may soon teach us. We ignore this fiction at our peril.” – Brando Skyhorse, author of The Madonnas of Echo Park and Take This Man
“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 own voices novel highly recommended.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Brace yourself: The end of the world is coming. Or is it? A multilayered, Indigenous-inflected version of the apocalypse that resists predictability…Givhan’s themes are complex and occasionally compete with the twists and turns of the plot for a reader s attention. Still, texture and nuance are rare among disaster narratives and are welcome here. A testament to the strength of women and girls with a side of philosophy, myth, and metaphysics.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Poet Givhan blends Puebloan, Zuni, and Mexican American cultures in this searing postapocalyptic rumination on motherhood, genocide, and environmentalism…This magical realist tale reveres the power of nature, exploring what could happen if Earth punished humankind for the atrocities committed against it. Poetry imbues every page with power and truth, and the intense plot is propelled by fully realized characters and a majestically primal setting. This harrowing debut with Southwestern sensibility depicts the dangers of destroying our planet and questions whether mythology is an apt term to describe Indigenous beliefs.” —Library Journal
ROSA’S EINSTEIN is available from University of Arizona Press (Camino del Sol Poetry Series), Indie Bound, Barnes and Noble, your local brick and mortal bookstores, or as a signed copy directly from Jenn (Venmo @Jennifer-Givhan or PayPal below)
2021 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards Finalist in New Mexico Poetry
“Givhan’s collection is so much about having hope for another and about envisioning another world in which someone is brave and bright and has not been abandoned. And in this hope, they are wanted and remembered.”—American Microreviews & Interviews
““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
“Rosa and Nieve are a way of displacing the white girls that populate the old Disney stories and the European settings transposed to the American Southwest, but they’re also more than princesses. They are scientists and conjurers and artists, time travelers and explorers writing their own story… We need stories that include us in order to create meaning, and our access to science doesn’t nullify that fact. So let me say—after reading Rosa’s Einstein the world looks different. Extraordinary poetry transforms the world as much as any new scientific discovery. Embrace the “spooky action at a distance,” the reality that seems like fiction, the unfathomable truth of our own lives and how stories and poems carry that truth to us.” —Allison Bird Treacy for The Adroit Journal
GIRL WITH DEATH MASK is available from Indiana University Press/Blue Lights Books, Barnes and Noble, your local brick and mortal bookstores, or as a signed copy directly from Jenn (Venmo @Jennifer-Givhan or PayPal below)
“These poems beautifully, convincingly do what I hope poems might–they disrupt what I know, or what I thought I knew. And in that way they invent for me a world. A world haunted and brutal, yes. But one mended, too, by the love and tenderness and vision and magic by which these poems are made. Again and again I found myself looking into space, sort of shaken, sort of grasping, turning and turning inside a line or phrase, inside an image or metaphor, inside some devastating music.” ―Ross Gay, author of Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude
“Magic, alchemy, transmogrification, and the body’s deep obsessions fill these lyrically charged poems with an unearthed power. Givhan is a poet who knows the bones of her own world so well that she can rearrange them into anything she wishes. Both surreal and rooted in truth, the complex and gorgeous poems in Girl with Death Mask continue to shake, stun, and weave their spells long after the book is closed.” ―Ada Limón, author of Bright Dead Things
“In the image-rich, circuitous journey of Girl with Death Mask, the girl both defies and weds death and its accomplice, sex, defies and weds collective mythologies. She flies and she falls, floats and drowns. . . In this raw, kinetic masterpiece of survival Givhan assures us, ‘even through death masks,’ Givhan assures us, ‘we can kiss.'” ―Diane Seuss, author of Four-Legged Girl
Girl with Death Mask shake the bars of our prisons and also those on which we write our music. . . . These poems illuminate how to love the body How hard our bodies work to bring their wisdom to us. How hard it is to love what we How hard it is to learn the ways that love abides despite our best efforts to dislodge, disprove, and doubt it. These poems find their way. They shake up our knowing in the best ways. ―Irena Praitis, author of The Last Stone in the Circle
“Girl With Death Mask is so inspiring, it may just be that rare bird, a poetry bestseller.” ―Cultural Weekly
“Jennifer Givhan, we’re awed by your use of pause and pacing, as you lead us to better understanding a woman’s landmine-filled journey out of childhood.” ―ForeWord Reviews
“Givhan crafts a clear-eyed narrative of Latina womanhood in this lovely collection ripe with longing, hope, and broken faith. . . . Givhan explores the dark sides of adolescence and womanhood with searing imagery and a healthy dose of empathy.” ―Publishers Weekly
REGENERATE is available as a signed copy directly Jenn (Venmo @Jennifer-Givhan or PayPal below)
Award-winning and critically-acclaimed poet, novelist, and transformational coach Jennifer Givhan shares her lyrical secrets and tricks of the trade with creators of every ilk. Drawing from magical realism and surrealism and injected with a generous serving of genre-bending craft techniques and real-world inspiration, Givhan leads writers through Master’s-level exercises in a clear, conversational, and encouraging style that invites writers of all levels and genres–from aspiring to student to professional–to dig deep into their subject matter and transform their ideas about their writing and themselves. Part craft book, part inspiring pep talk, this welcoming guide is sure to illuminate, empower, and stimulate creativity from the classroom to the workshop to whatever landscape a writer finds themself searching for something new to write. As Givhan says, “these transformational strategies … will bring metamorphosis to your writing and your writing life.” Gorgeous, enlightening, instructive, enthralling, and vibrantly illustrated. A necessary addition to every writers’ and writing instructors’ library and toolbox.
PROTECTION SPELL is available from The University of Arkansas Press or can be ordered from your favorite indie bookstore, Barnes and Noble, your local brick and mortal bookstores, or as a signed copy directly from Jenn (Venmo @Jennifer-Givhan or PayPal below)
“Among the several poems in Jennifer Givhan’s Protection Spell that stopped me cold is ‘The Polar Bear,’ in which a mother tries to protect her black child from the television news of racial unrest (riots, arrests, brutality) by turning his attention to The Discovery Channel. But there, a polar bear is fighting for survival surrounded by vicious walruses and melting ice. The boy clutches his stuffed white bear and asks if this is real. Life in the Arctic and life in the urban streets are conjoined, ecology and racism wed. Givhan is a poet of great heart and brave directness who writes real-life poems, sometimes crowded to the point of claustrophobia with the details of life in the poor lane. One poem transforms a laundromat woman living ‘paycheck to paycheck’ into a ‘god.’ Another poem is a stirring defense of cheerleaders, written without a drop of irony. A reader will be quick to trust the authority in this poet’s voice and the credentials of experience which are on full display.” —Billy Collins
“In a second collection that beats with multiple hearts, Givhan (Landscape with Headless Mama) addresses complicated familial identity, writing of her own Mexican-American background, her mixed-race husband, and their adopted black child. The book is full of anxiety over the vulnerability of children, specifically her own child’s identity and how she can protect him. Givhan writes of the initial apprehension, “after the gauge of my uterus/ had fixed itself on empty.// I’d made peace with the threat of/ you’re not my ‘real’ mother.” She also confronts the racism embedded in the adoption process: how the “white ones cost ten grand more.” Throughout, Givhan exposes the enduring animosity and aggression towards biracial families, doing so with candor and sparkling language. Every line is tightly composed, and the sensory details pull the reader towards the poet as she recounts her splintered world—her past as well as the present world she creates and navigates as a woman and a mother of color. Chronicling the cruelty that children endure at the hands of adults, Givhan casts the eponymous spell for her son and her family. Givhan asks readers to witness racial inequity beside her and imagine a better future—how, we, too, have the power to cast a spell so that every human feels secure, safe, protected.” —Publisher’s Weekly, Jan. 2017
“Protection spells typically deal with force and looking out for one’s self and others, two themes consistently at work in Jennifer Givhan’s Protection Spell. Whether it is standing one’s ground regarding family, as in the sequence of poems dealing with a neighbor’s racially-charged accusations against the speaker’s husband, or empathizing with and speaking in the voices of figures past and present who have survived physical and cultural violence, the poems in this collection are alive with the complexity of wanting to protect while needing to be protected as well. These are poems that engage human experience beyond the binary of aggression and passivity, and reflect a world where the two sides blur.” —José Angel Araguz, The Bind
“The poems in Protection Spell feel like the music of an Aeolian harp specially tuned to catch the winds of trauma and tragedy—and the intense commitments made by love. Jennifer Givhan knows that to be a mother, spouse, Latina, American, teacher, writer, human being is necessarily to be political. She has a gift for making poem-spaces where story can meet song—detailed, dynamic, sometimes desperate, always gorgeous.” —Daisy Fried
“In her brilliant second collection, Jenn Givhan gives us poems that both balm and break the heart. In an age when much of what passes for poetry leans toward obfuscation, Givhan provides us with what is truly difficult: an honest account of who and what we are, individually and collectively. In language that is at turns both lyrical and colloquial, Jenn Givhan’s Protection Spell ‘can’t resist telling . . . what darkness will come, what light.’” —John Murillo
“Jennifer Givhan’s Protection Spell is an aegis for re-membering, for piecing back together trauma-fractured selves and communities that are displaced in space and time. Givhan interrogates history with lyrical revisions beneath which misogyny, racism, and poverty kneel to a new prayer: ‘Prayer for two or more gathered// in prayer, for shuteye, for danger, for rust.’ No one is safe alone, and Givhan has given us a complex song to accompany us in this world.”—Phillip B. Williams
“There’s a powerful magic in Jennifer Givhan’s Protection Spell, one that offers a lyrical and unflinching look at motherhood and America, at race and history, the cultural collisions that pry us open and ‘the dark / matter holding us together.’ These are fearless, unforgettable poems.” —Matthew Olzmann
“Jennifer Givhan is an astonishing poet. In her second book, beautifully built lines dovetail into stanzas that reveal how mothering brings the self closer to both beauty and terror and how the self navigates the minefields of identity and home. Givhan’s explorations are acrobatic, lyrical, and ravishing. Protection Spell is a searing and vital book.” —Eduardo C. Corral
“The maternal instinct is a complicated emotional experience for a Latina in an interracial marriage and raising an adopted black son. Givhan’s heartfelt poems don’t come across as sentimental because her angst is expressed through the unsettling truths about the racism in today’s America that her partner faces and that her son will undoubtedly encounter. Channeling her inner healer and her inner bruja, the speaker offers words as solace and safety, knowing this doesn’t always guarantee an uneventful homecoming, “the boy on the street, his too-large cowboy boots/ forever walking home toward his mama. His mama/ forever on the porch, searching the skyline for a hat.” This moving and sometimes painful book of poems in nonetheless filled with positive light and hope.” —Rigoberto González, NBCNews.com, Feb. 2017
LANDSCAPE WITH HEADLESS MAMA is available from Pleiades Press or can be ordered from your favorite indie bookstore, Barnes and Noble, your local brick and mortal bookstores, or as a signed copy directly from Jenn (Venmo @Jennifer-Givhan or PayPal below)
“Pardon me, but I’m shivering a bit at my core. These are restless, storm-hued stanzas, revelations of our dark cravings and hapless, woefully imperfect attempts at perfect love. Here are the dreams even our dreams won’t reveal, flaunting wild edges and endings that nudge the soul, each fusing of lyric and lesson as potent as a backhand slap. And Mama watches everything. Mama sees it all.” –Patricia Smith
“The landscape of poet Jennifer Givhan’s searing first book may be that of the desert southwest, but is lush with language, thick with a personal symbology and unsparingly true. If Frida Kahlo and Remedios Varo wrote poems together, that book just might be Landscape with Headless Mama. The women in Givhan’s poetry are a fierce crew. They fight, are flayed and are teenagers at the fair. They catastrophize, hallucinate, hula and struggle with this damnable world. These are true border poems, restlessly crossing between the real and the surreal, the loved and the used up, the fertile and the infertile, and the hungry and the sated. Jennifer Givhan is a dangerous poet in all the necessary ways.” –Connie Voisine
“What’s living without fear of getting lost?” That’s only one of many empowering moments in Jennifer Givhan’s auspicious debut. Her “blood magic” ink delivers the hard truths that kick-start the healing of the “splintered cactus” that hurdles the path of a woman’s journey. Landscape with Headless Mama blossoms with the “strange alloys of sadness” that devastate motherhood and femininity, and then nurture their wounds back to vibrant life. –Rigoberto González
“Landscape with Headless Mama explores the experience of motherhood both becoming a mother and the subsequent raising of children, the inexpressible love and the incomprehensible exhaustion in a way that feels equal parts earthy and supernatural. This debut collection from Mexican-American poet Jennifer Givhan resonates with the spirit of the arid southwest; the writing is sharp and vivid and passionate, and feels just a little bit risky, a little bit out of control, in all the best ways.” —Bustle
“Landscape with Headless Mama is, truly, an emotional landscape. Its strength lies in its performance of mother-daughter relationships, and the tenderness the brutal honesty with which the author portrays motherhood. Givhan writes with a subtle magic, twining familial tension with the cultural fodder of the folktale. In the end, Landscape with Headless Mama is a tale full of whimsy and the poetics of language and yet, at the same time, a tale that doesn t shy away from the dark forests of the fairytale. Indeed, Landscape with Headless Mama is a beast, its jaws gaping wide.” —Blueshift Journal
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From my heart to yours
Dear Reader, Make sure to let me know which book(s) you are ordering along with your mailing address, and I’ll send you a signed copy with love, light, and a little magic. Thank you for your support! XO Jenn