To All the Yellow Flowers by Raya Tuffaha. Foreword by Matthew Merlino & Illustrations by Timothy St. Pierre (Golden Antelope Press, paperback)
Publication Date: March 2, 2020
Publisher Marketing: Raya Tuffaha'sTo All The Yellow Flowersis a deeply personal reflection of self through poetry. Dealing with topics of sexuality, culture, and love, Tuffaha's poetry speaks truthfully to her experience with these issues as a queer young Muslim woman. Often, she compares her culture's expectations for her life to her own, highlighting the places where the two intersect, and acknowledging the flash points. Many of her poems are formatted to reflect the speed and pace of a speaking voice, which magnifies the experience of Tuffaha's written word. Some twenty pen and ink drawings by Timothy St. Pierre further enhance the experience.
In her poem, "Lot's Wife," for example, Tuffaha assumes the woman's perspective on the famed biblical story about what happened in Sodom and Gomorrah: "She falls for men so they won't hurt her /takes care of others before they take it from her." Tuffaha often flips common narratives on their heads and forces readers to look at situations from different points of view. Culture is a key feature in "When Exotic Becomes Side Dish," as the food and customs of the author's culture are juxtaposed with an outsider's view. The lines, "Jasmine nights /and za'atar mornings catch/ in between my teeth /dirty fangs bared ready /for the carnage" showcase the narrator's willingness to defend parts of her traditional Muslim culture while questioning others.