Alfred A. Knopf 2015
192 Pages $27.95
Review by Philip K. Jason
Marge Piercy’s nineteenth collection of poetry—to go along with her seventeen novels—celebrates the working-class roots of a fierce American writer who became a voice at once strident and sensitive for social justice, the value of work, and humanity’s place in the embracing, injured natural world.
The book is divided into six sections, and in the first three Piercy’s references to her Jewish identity are sparse and defensive. In “City bleeding” she talks about learning to survive on Detroit’s “ashgrey burning streets / when as a Jew I was not white yet . . . .” Judaism seems a troubled reminder, in “What my mother gave me,” as the writer remembers “how cats would circle / your feet purring your Hebrew name.” In a prose poem, she remembers “feeling very alien, feeling very Jewish and judged.” She remembers her mother telling her not to putJew on a job application in “My time in better dresses”—Jewishness as a burden.
How surprising and uplifting, then, to find the entirety of Made in Detroit’s fourth part a full-throated acceptance and affirmation of Jewish identity. This section, mostly a meditation on the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah), soars. These poems, at once personal and public, reveal an engaged Jewish consciousness, a woman who tells us, “I like Rosh Hashanah late, / when leaves are half burnt / umber and scarlet” and when “migrating birds perch / on the wires davening.”
To read the entire review, as it appears on the Jewish Book Council blog and will appear in a forthcoming Jewish Book World, click here: Made in Detroit by Marge Piercy | Jewish Book Council