My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter

Aja Monet

she is an archipelago of shanty towns, she is invention and

necessity. found scraps, a bouquet of bloody music in her

hands. cane of sugar, leaves of tobacco, a cluster or bananas,

coffee beans, the husk of corn, a poppy seed, tea shrub, spikelet


of wheat, rice flower, gold nuggets, diamonds & coltan—she is

an incantation bellowing from the fields and mines. look for her

in the ruins, at the funeral procession, drunk off palm wine,

screaming in a traffic of arms. lonely, but not alone.

An “ode to mothers, daughters, and sisters,” My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter feels like an epic volume of poetry, woven from experiences in East New York, the South Side of Chicago, and Palestine. At equal moments powerfully defiant to tenderly incisive, Aja Monet’s poems touch on themes of family, “mothers who did the best they could,” and nostalgia for her childhood, while lingering on racism, sexism, colonialism, and grief for everything lost amid the “survival of the richest.”