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.
Bolina’s gift for seeing diverse viewpoints resurfaces in later essays ... Most of the essays unfold as a series of vignettes or scenes, some so brief that they short-circuit the development of promising ideas. Along with other limits, that underdevelopment makes the book a minor collection in this arena. However, the author shows flashes of promise on which to build in the future, and given that many of the pieces deal with the intersection of race and writing, the book will interest creative writing students and programs ... A slender collection of essays explores the role of race in poetry and life.