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To All the Yellow Flowers

To All the Yellow Flowers

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By Raya Tuffaha

Raya Tuffaha's To All The Yellow Flowers is 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.

Raya Tuffaha takes readers through the trials of her life and ends the journey on a hopeful note. Family is the focus of her final poem, "After Javon Johnson: When the Cancer Comes," in which she remembers her Palestinian family before concluding: "When family trees bear olives, /rupture the sunbeams and entwine /home in their fists/ we march, we march." Raya Tuffaha's To All The Yellow Flowers is a celebration of the hard times which can lead to good, and the beauty and chaos to be found in the intersection of the cultures that comprise a person's life.

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