In his debut essay collection, poet Jaswinder Bolina meditates on 'how race,' as he puts it, 'becomes metaphysical': the cumulative toll of the microaggressions and macro-pressures lurking in the academic market, on the literary circuit, in the dating pool, and on the sidewalks of any given U.S. city.
... an eminently readable, tailored essay collection ... Bolina’s book seeks to perform a different endeavor—not erasure, but rather recognition of all that is similar and different among us. His tools—empathy, the ability to face difficult aspects of himself and others, and, of course, the gift of language—create a space for both old identities and new, for himself, others, and our society at large ... Throughout the collection, Bolina works to dismantle these internal and external entrapments, which may 'offer our best rescue from alienation, apathy, and atrocity, from ourselves and each other' ... Bolina is sympathetic to his father’s perspective, imagining the racism he’s endured, but his own experiences are generationally and culturally different. He’s adept at speaking the language of his time—literally and figuratively—and that provides him a visa into other realms. Yet, the challenging experiences of his father and other family members that populate this collection return repeatedly, a plumb line that stabilizes, anchors, and deepens Bolina’s investigations. It is clear that he can never not be of color, regardless of his success ... Bolina’s essays are at their best when he weaves anecdotes about his family with broader issues around immigrancy, representation, and identification ... explores the experience of being of color, being an immigrant, being American, and being human with an admirable fluency, entrusting us with an honest conversation that we all should be having with each other. We are now at a critical, horrifying inflection point, societally and politically. But Bolina’s collection shares the crucial truth: we can only survive if you are my person, and I am yours.
... an important examination of race in the US ... Powerful as they move from personal experiences into larger questions of art, race, and politics ... Suggestive and thought-provoking, the essays are written in a clear, graceful style that keeps the focus on Bolina’s stories and ideas. Of Color is an essential text set at the intersections between art, race, power, and culture.
Of Color is driven by a relentless question: what to do with the life a person of color has, which is also one that is happening to him? ... Of Color might appear to be of little consequence, a thorough examination of Bolina’s life––of his writing career, his marriage, his neighborhood, his classroom––but without deliverance. But perhaps it is our want for firm ground that Bolina is challenging ... Both subtly and overtly, in both craft and clear phrases, Bolina seems to find something like an answer in specificity and sincerity ... Maybe it’s because Bolina’s humility has proved so difficult to conjure in my own life that I see it so clearly here, why I’m marveling, as if watching a magician at work. Bolina waves a comma like a wand and the positive space recedes, the negative space rises to the surface, the play of words proffering a sense of relief. But Bolina is not a magician, although sometimes a poet, a philosopher, can appear as one. He is simply paying attention.