Summer Fun & Activity Guide – Summer Reading

Amanda Leahy on July 10th, 2019

Green Card & Other Essays
by Aine Greaney
Wising Up Press (2019)

“Green Card & Other Essays” is the first collection of essays from writer and teacher Aine Greaney, a native of Ireland who immigrated to the U.S. in 1987. Though the 18 essays of “Green Card” are short, each wields subtle power. Taken together, they weave the story of Greaney’s journey from a life in Ireland, where she was a primary school teacher, to her naturalization as a citizen of the United States and integration into life in New England. 

“Green Card” explores what it means to be an immigrant. The essays, set in Ireland and the U.S., probe deeply into identity, heritage and the necessity of human connection across borders. Perhaps the book’s greatest strength is Greaney’s voice itself: heartfelt, honest and intimate; the essays read like a conversation with an old friend. 

Merrimack Valley residents will recognize many landmarks in these pages. “Citizen Me,” the story of Greaney’s naturalization, is set in Lowell and pays homage to the troupe of Irish laborers who dug Lowell’s system of canalways. “Green Card,” the essay from which the collection’s name is derived, is set in the Lawrence immigration office. And the historical seaport of Newburyport (Greaney’s current home) features frequently throughout the collection.  

“Green Card” is prefaced by a question from Sue Miler’s novel “The World Below,” a question that feels particularly relevant today: 

It made me think of the borders we all cross, the distances we’ve all come from what feels like home. Who lives at home, in America, now?

Though there are many reasons why picking up this small collection will prove worthwhile, the ways in which “Green Card” provides satisfying answers to Miller’s question are undoubtedly the most compelling of all.    

Ugly Music
by Diannely Antigua
YesYes Books (2019) 

From Diary Entry #1/Revisitation:

/ Maybe

this is God’s way of saying you’re carrying

a king. You have a physical on July 3rd.

You’ll wear a necklace and prepare

for the child of winter. God is

a nice guy. He suspects

nothing. You’ll go to the mountain,

count to ten. You’ll fall on the world

like an ugly music.

“Ugly Music” is the debut collection of poetry by Diannely Antigua, a Dominican American and Massachusetts native who attended Northern Essex Community College before studying English at UMass Lowell. She went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry from New York University.

The poems of “Ugly Music” are, more than anything else, poems of testimony and survival. These poems are built upon trauma both physical and existential, loss, mental illness, lust, obsession, the vulgar, the mundane, the cacophonous. Antigua is at her best when conjuring the raw, bitter heart of such experiences. In “Re-Education,” she writes,

And there was no floor

when I fell, when a queen

flew from my womb. There was glass

and napkins, and the doctor 

saying, Wake up. Wake up. 

Perhaps the loudest voice within “Ugly Music” is one that continually resists erasure and repeats emphatically: I am here. I am still here. I am alive. Antigua described this tension in an email: 

“Having been raised religious, prayer was an essential part of my spiritual hygiene. I learned to pray in the morning when I woke up, before every meal, before bed, and even before taking school exams. Although my relationship to faith has changed drastically since then, the residue of these rituals remains.

“Ugly Music” is fearless, searing and wholly unforgettable.
It should not be missed by any lover of language.    

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