Bright: A Memoir, the first full-length essay collection from acclaimed poet Kiki Petrosino, is a work of lyric nonfiction, offering glimpses of a life lived between cultural worlds. “Bright,” a slang term used to describe light-skinned people of interracial American ancestry, becomes the starting point for an extended meditation on the author’s upbringing in a mixed Black and Italian American family. Alternating moments of memoir, archival research, close reading and reverie, this work contemplates the enduring, deeply personal legacies of enslavement and racial discrimination in America. Situated at the luminous crossroads where public and private histories collide, Bright asks important questions about love, heritage, identity and creativity.
"Award-winning poet Petrosino probes her identity as a poet and biracial woman in a slender, expressive memoir that swirls around the meaning of bright...A spare, affecting, lyrical memoir."
"Kiki Petrosino’s Bright is an astonishing lyric archive of the body—who it’s made of; what’s imposed upon it; what’s extracted from it—the result of which is one of the most moving, and incisive documents on the brutalizing fictions of race that I’ve ever read. As formally experimental as survival is, Bright lights the ways our different bodies in different places at different times are forced again and again to negotiate and endure and evade and refuse those stories. Refusal the result of which is sometimes as beautiful, as luminous, as the book in your hands."
—Ross Gay, author of The Book of Delights and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude
“In Bright: A Memoir, with the attentiveness of an archivist, Petrosino explores how, ‘[i]n each of her cells, continents merged & drifted,’ as she longs both for the hems of her African ancestors’ garments and a single letter written to her by her Italian grandfather. In this formally inventive essay collection, she charts her way through centuries, languages, cultures, and religions in startling lyricism where poetry emerges as the divine being— manifesting itself in the ‘invisible arpeggio of a hummingbird’s wing’ and the ‘velvety flowers that unlatched from dark green buds.’ Petrosino’s language is visceral, showing us in the opening section how ‘there’s a mean smile’ embedded in the word ‘bright,’ forcing us to move our mouths to experience it, to live inside that violence. Despite the embodied discomfort in this book—even in the spectral unfolding of a fairy tale to which we know there may be no happy ending—it is difficult to peel away from the powerful pull of the prose in this book.”
—Chet'la Sebree, author of Field Study
“At once intimate and personal as well as larger and societal, Bright negotiates tenderness and thorns to remind us that the African American experience has never been one simple story. To read Kiki Petrosino’s evocative self-reckoning is a great gift—and a call for understanding.”
—Lauret Savoy, author of Trace: Memory, History, Race and the American Landscape
“Let me describe the powers of Bright: A Memoir. Within it, I find pages of strength (holding up a sentence of nearly unbearable weight, but not letting go), of restraint (knowing that the sentence must be held up alone), and of patience (all the measured breaths taken in order to reach that utterance). This book astonishes me. Kiki Petrosino is not only a superb writer, but a dazzling reader, and to glimpse, within this memoir, her way of perceiving what she encounters is revelatory. Whether parsing the details of a landscape or the notebooks of Thomas Jefferson, Petrosino finds within them more than what their authors meant to say. What she has to say—of childhood, history, race, family, literature, inheritance—is so immense you might be surprised it can be contained within a book of this size, but this is another of its powers. Open it up, and you’ll find the expertly-compressed energy of its language expanding into a beautiful new shape, one you’ll treasure.”
—Heather Christle, author of The Crying Book
“Moving from the personal to the historical, from the shores of Prospero’s Island to the halls of Monticello, this book is a fierce reclamation of history, myth, literature, biology, and language. “Bright” is not simply a recounting of Petrosino’s past, but an elegant primer for how to become a whole, dazzling self within a toxic culture of whiteness that seeks to marginalize, silence, and erase. In spare, elegant lines, Petrosino shows us that our identities are not fixed; we are shaped constantly by the stories we tell, the facts to which we give weight, and the parts of the world we choose to see. Petrosino is calling us toward a different way of inhabiting our lives; we need to listen.”
—Kaethe Schwehn, author of The Rending and the Nest
“Fueled by what it means to identify your own blood, White Blood is a masterful book of poems that excavates, resurrects, and stares clear-eyed into history. Petrosino's intricate attention to sound and the muscularity of the poetic line make these poems explode in both the ear and the heart. Here is a poet at her best.”
—Ada Limón, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
"Petrosino is a canny, wide-ranging and formally nimble writer with a magician's command of atmosphere."
—The New York Times, "The Best Poetry of 2017"
"Petrosino. . . crackles in her stunning third collection, as she dives deep into the ephemeral powers of the body, particularly those of black women. . . .Cosmic images blend with the familiar and domestic to create an all-encompassing reading experience."
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Petrosino writes complicated, layered poems, rife with internal rhymes and echoes of assonance...A fine addition to large poetry collections."
“In Petrosino’s singular world, the familiar becomes strange, and the strange, suddenly irresistible, settles deep in the bones. Sparkling with sly wordplay and fantastical imagery, these are not only masterful poems but mighty incantations. Utterly spellbinding.”
"This stunning spellbook on love, being a woman in all phases of life, motherhood, and inhabiting the female body will cast a spell on you."
—Barnes & Noble
“Petrosino composes poems that burn and sizzle, that pierce the reader with their masterful crafting and heightened vulnerability; she breaks open and digs into bother her personal past, where she ‘grew like a braid / in bad light,’ as well as American society’s ‘throb-in-throat’ past.”
—Poets & Writers