Author: Amanda Alcántara
Latinx: Dominican Republic
Genre: Poetry, Lyrical Prose, Memoir
Chula is a lyrical prose memoir for the modern Latina(x). Amanda Alcántara shares her experiences from childhood to adulthood as a woman, as a Latina, as a person of color, and as so many other identities separately and all at the same time. Her voice is sassy, sharp, and full of rhyme and rhythm that make the writing flow like a rap track. Rap and music in general are mentioned in the collection, with the poem “Buelita’s Songs” taking us through a femme family history that shows how music travels through generations in her family. Alcántara expresses her experiences head-on; there aren’t any vague, flowery images decorated with purple prose, she is honest and she showcases her emotions and experiences this way. As honest as she is, she isn’t self-pitying, nor is she overly analytical of herself or her past– she portrays her experiences as being what they are, allows them to be what they are, but still creates space for readers to think about the bigger picture.
A real gem in the collection is the constant connection she makes with her child self. She does this by including diary entries from her past and by dedicating other sections to her younger self, such as in “My Last Heartbreak” where she writes to her child self. In many ways the collection is an ode to her child self, and her process healing her. My personal favorite parts of the collection were the diary entries that she includes– I write in a journal myself, and there were so many times when her entries echoed mine, even in the way she used diary entries as a way to vent, work out her feelings, but also sometimes found herself focusing on the wrong things, which were all things I can relate too.
The masterpieces of the collection are “Reguetonera Dreams,” “Caribbean Bae,” and the diary entry that follows them (they’re all consecutive). These really hit me. They were not only deeper, but they were darker than the other poems and pieces in the collection, and the honest reality she arrives to about her relationship with men and how she chooses to make a change in her life struck a chord with me, and for sure will strike a chord with readers. Not only that, it was just so real. I could feel her strength in coming to that realization, coming out of her pain, and moving on to a life where she can live intentionally and feel in control.
The collection ends with another diary entry from her childhood/young adulthood, perfectly looping it back to her youth and the growth she has done throughout her life.
I would definitely recommend this to poetry lovers! It’s definitely more casual and much more approachable to read for people who don’t usually read poetry or lyrical prose.
Rating: 8 out 10