The imagination of a girl, the retelling of family stories, and the unfolding of a rich and often painful history: Parneshia Jones’s debut collection explores the intersections of these elements of experience with refreshing candor and metaphorical purpose.
A child of the South speaking in the rhythms of Chicago, Jones knits “a human quilt” with herself at the center. She relates everything from the awkward trip to Marshall Fields with her mother to buy her first bra to the late whiskey-infused nights of her father’s world. In the South, “lard sizzles a sermon from the stove”; in Chicago, we feast on an “opera of peppers and pimento.” Jones intertwines the stories of her own family with those of historical black figures, including Marvin Gaye and Josephine Baker. Affectionate, dynamic, and uncommonly observant, these poems mine the richness of history to create a map of identity and influence.
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Praise and Prizes
“Our need to tell stories comes from an almost equal need for hard truths, and Parneshia Jones’s gorgeous poetry collection is full of bold lyricism and elegant storytelling. Her poems force us to question our skin politics, our bent up genealogies, our gender binaries, and the ways these artifices stack up to weigh us down. Right now, when it can be so difficult to be heard over all of the alarmingly vocal racism and sexism, we need Jones’s fearless poems to speak for us.”
“Parneshia Jones’s comforting and complex debut poetry collection pays bittersweet homage to youth, family and her hometown of Chicago.”
“In the tradition of Brooks, Hansberry, Danner, and Walker, Parneshia Jones, dutiful daughter and attentive poet-witness of the Black Chicago Renaissance, imagines and serves memory to us out of a teeming black skillet of life. There is something about a black girl born and raised in Chicago, with a pencil behind her ear, that alters the alphabet from finite to infinite. Jones has written a sweet and unforgettable first child.”
“These are poems that feel intimate, yet at the same time this is verse that takes on much that is part of our collective history. . . . In Vessel, Parneshia Jones, working in distilled, layered language, mines the quotidian, the casual, the seemingly incidental to unearth resonant meaning that matters to us all.”
“Parneshia Jones is pure literary juke—a record’s smoothest rotation, the roll steady of the Gulf. She’s cool Chicago late nights and the slow crawl of Sunday morning in New Orleans. Parneshia is a world of a woman—Renaissance Conjure Priestess of planet earth and the way, way beyond. We want her words filling our shelves, our lungs, our hearts. Eyes forward; hands on the wheel—Parneshia Jones knows every curve of the road, the byway, highway—and we’re always along for the ride.”