Book Reviews, Poetry

peluda – Melissa Lozada-Oliva Review

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Rating:★★★★★

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t read a lot of poetry, but I knew I had to get this one. I’ve loved watching videos of Melissa Lozada-Oliva’s spoken word performances on YouTube, finally feeling represented by her words and stories. My Spanish captures exactly how I feel about feeling like I’m not fluent enough at my native tongue, and Bitches makes me laugh as I think of all the brilliant women in my family. Peluda didn’t disappoint. Melissa has a way with mixing humour and emotion, so that I didn’t know whether I wanted to laugh or cry at her words.

Peluda explores so many topics in its 21 poems. In a single poem, you’ll find explorations of Latina identity, beauty and femininity, class and family relationships, all seen through the lens of the immigrant experience. ‘Peluda’ is Spanish for ‘hairy’, and Lord, being hairy is one thing that I can relate to. I initially thought that the poems would simply be humorous, but Melissa takes a simple feature, hair, and uses it as a vehicle to show so much more. It is about owning your identity, even though you struggle with it, and know that other people don’t understand it. It’s about the girl who is ashamed of her thick, black body hair, and who has to shave to look and feel acceptable, and is criticised for being superficial by her white friends who let their own body hair grow as a political statement, but not only that. It’s also about wanting to shorten your name, to have a whiter name, less Latino, less immigrant, about your identity not being wholly your own but consisting of your family and their experiences. Even though the poems discuss the struggles of the Latin-American immigrant experience, it isn’t about being ashamed. It’s about fighting to feel proud, no matter what other people say or how they act, seeing the beauty through the struggle, and seeing the beauty in the struggle.

I love finding chances to read #ownvoices literature, but finding literature that captures my own experiences as a Colombian girl, growing up in the UK, has always been difficult. I have never found a book that captures so many emotions as these poems have. I have honestly never felt so represented since I watched In The Heights, and it made me get teary-eyed quite a few times just at the feeling of seeing myself in these poems. If you are looking for #OwnVoices authors to add to your reading list, I could not recommend this enough.

I cannot recommend this collection enough. The poems are beautiful and fun to read, filled with humour and emotion. I can’t wait for my own copy to arrive in the mail so that I can show this to everyone who will listen!

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