The Red Hijab
The foreword to this book explains that the news media reports negatively on the Middle East because that’s what gets ratings. It goes on to say that this poetry by Bonnie Bolling also offers a look at regular life in a way the news will never do.
To understand this book, I think it’s critical to understand that the poet is an American who lives part of the time in California and part of the time in a Persian Gulf village. This book is written from the perspective of an outsider who lives part time among a different culture. There is a strong sense of “them” in this book that I found off-putting, despite the fact that it won the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry. The poems themselves are beautifully written, but the sentiment behind them did not provide the juxtaposition I expected to find from the foreword. Horrendous violence is depicted in many of the poems with a line or two about women cooking food and going about their lives. The narrator came across more like a detached reporter than someone living among the villagers and feeling any solidarity with them.
I’d been hoping to gain new perspective in an authentic voice from an author whose reality was different from my own. I did not find that here.