CITIZEN ILLEGAL by José Olivarez

Great book of poems about being the son of two Mexican immigrants in the U.S., specifically Chicago (and later NYC).

My favorite poem was “Mexican American Disambiguation.” That piece is about how messy the language is surrounding Mexicanness and Americanness. How there’s a difference between being Mexican in America (born in Mexico but living in the U.S.) vs being Méxican and living in Mexico; a difference between gringos (Méxican’s talking about Mexican’s in America) vs gringos (Mexican’s talking about white people in America). And all that bleeds into José Olivarez’s upscale education and how he analyzes these words and his place in them, especially because he looks white. It’s great. I also really liked the multiple pieces titled “Mexican Heaven” and “On My Mom’s 50th Birthday.” Very cool collection.

Best line:

“all the Mexicans sneak into heaven. St. Peter has their names on the list,”

José Olivarez (from “Mexican Heaven”)

-Rachel Wagner


My books: 
– Jacob’s Hip: Poems
– FEM: New Millennium Beauty & Fashion
– Abandonment Issues: Alive in New Jersey
– Back Like I Never Left: Dating as a Single Mother

My bookstore: Ten Dollar Books

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