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Becoming Ebony

Becoming Ebony

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Patricia Jabbeh Wesley


E-book (Other formats: Paperback)
6 x 9

Crab Orchard Series in Poetry


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About the Book

Recapturing the celebratory voice of Africa in poems that are both contemporary and traditional, Liberian-born Patricia Jabbeh Wesley weaves lyrical storytelling with oral history and images of Africa and America, revealing powerful insights about the relationship between strength and tragedy—and finding reason to celebrate even in the presence of war, difficulties, and death. Rooted in myths that can be traced to the Grebo tradition, Becoming Ebony portrays Liberian-born Wesley’s experiences of village talk and civil war as well as her experiences of the pain of her mother’s death and the difficulties of rearing a family away from home in the United States, and explores the questions of living in the African Diaspora. Turning on the African proverb of “the wandering child” and the metaphor of the ebony tree—which is beautiful in life and death— these poems delve into issues of human suffering and survival, plainly and beautifully chronicling what happens “after the sap is gone.”


Patricia Jabbeh Wesley was born in Tugbakeh, Maryland County, Liberia, and grew up in Monrovia. She is the author of Before the Palm Could Bloom: Poems of Africa, which retells her experiences in the Liberian civil war. Her work has appeared in The Cortland Review,Crab Orchard Review,Midday Moon, and New Orleans Review. She lives with her husband and children in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where she teaches creative writing and African Literature at Western Michigan University.


“Wesley writes with clear-eyed lyricism about her ruthless and beleaguered homeland, and the bittersweet relief and loss of the diaspora. Her poems are scintillating and vivid, quickly sketched fables shaped by recollections of childhood playmates, moonlight and ocean surf, hibiscus hedges, and big pots of boiling soup. But these paeans to home blend with percussive visions of falling rockets and murdered children, sharp recollections of hunger and mourning, and a survivor's careful gratitude in a land of cold winds and rationed sunlight, her carefully measured memories and cherished dreams of return.”

Booklist (starred review), Spotlight on Black History